The New Orleans Pelicans are in the playoffs!
For fans, though, the 33-6 second-to-third quarter run against the Los Angeles Clippers may have already fallen far behind in the rearview mirror. The focus has moved forward, and every eye has its sight set on their specific and desirable first round opponent.
With only one day of basketball left, there are still far too many scenarios to even pretend to delve into, but the short version is, win and face Portland. To do that, the Pelicans must first get past their old foe, and Southwest rival, the San Antonio Spurs.
If this feels familiar, it should. The Pelicans sat in this familiar seat just three years ago, when they dropped the Spurs from second to sixth in the West on the final day, punching their own ticket to the playoffs.
San Antonio rested far too often down the stretch that season, no doubt grueled and battered from their previous offseason entanglements with the Miami Heat in the Finals. Fast forward three years, and the Spurs have every opportunity to seek revenge and possibly bring the Pelicans’ Cinderella season to an abrupt halt.
Should the Spurs manage to win tonight in New Orleans, the likeliest scenario has the Pelicans squaring off with the Houston Rockets, so let’s just focus on the Spurs, shall we?
The Spurs are disciplined, focused and determined. They are led by LaMarcus Aldridge, who is enjoying another fine season at 23 and 12. Ever present, the crafty Manu Ginobli, who almost single handedly was responsible for Anthony Davis’ dismissal from the game last March 15th in the Pelicans’ 98-93 loss, is going to be ready to reach into his bag of tricks.
Remember that? Ginobli drew two cheap fouls on AD, giving him his fourth and fifth fouls in the third quarter, by backing himself into AD as AD trotting back on defense.
The Spurs, however, do not foul. They are first in that category, as well as defense, third in defensive rating, and 29th in pace. The Spurs will slow it down and force the Pelicans to play in the half court.
Additionally, the Spurs are seventh in offensive rebounds, something the Pelicans’ have struggled to defend, and they don’t turn the ball over, which will limit fast break opportunities.
Head Coach Alvin Gentry needs to be clever in hiding Rajon Rondo, who has lifted his game in the past week. Rondo posted a -23 in just 24 minutes last month when asked to guard the quicker and unrelenting DeJounte Murray and Patty Mills. Look for Gentry to possibly hide him on a struggling Danny Green or a less mobile Rudy Gay.
Popovich also started Pau Gasol two nights ago in what was the Spurs’ 25th starting lineup this year. Should he opt to go this route over Kyle Anderson yet again, will Gentry stick with Nikola Mirotic or choose to start Emeka Okafor?
Join David Grubb of Crescent City Sports as well as Oleh Kosel and Kevin Barrios, as we break down all of these questions and many, many more.
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