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NBA Preview: New Orleans Pelicans continue to aspire to mimic success of division-rival San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs are on track to make a 22nd consecutive playoff appearance. The Pelicans have odds stacked against them to make it just two straight.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Pelicans (22-27) will welcome the San Antonio Spurs (27-22) later today with an earlier 5:00 p.m. Central tip at the Smoothie King Center.

These two teams represent an interesting comparison. Although they both boast significantly better offenses than defenses, one is a perennial overachiever while the other has underachieved all too often. One can seemingly win regardless of how many times injury strikes, the other falls apart when a key contributor or two are out of action. The group of reserves on one can be entrusted to play big minutes, but fear strikes the other’s fan base when the head coach has to go far into his bench.

Without a doubt, I’m sure you can differentiate the Pelicans from the Spurs above, and this contrast isn’t meant to be a slight against the New Orleans franchise as much as praise and a show of envy for San Antonio’s. The Spurs consistently win more than they lose, don’t suffer from near the amount of lackadaisical efforts and Gregg Popovich can plug anyone into the lineup without the team taking a noticeable step back.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Orlando Magic Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Spurs are led by LaMarcus Aldridge (20.6 points, 8.6 rebounds) and DeMar DeRozan (21.5 points, 6.2 rebounds, 6.3 assists), but they have five other players averaging 9.0 points or more who are capable of putting up much bigger numbers when necessary.

San Antonio is the only team in the league shooting above 40% from three-point range on the season (40.6%). More impressively, they don’t fall apart in clutch minutes as evidenced by a 12-11 record and a stout 42.2 3PT%.

New Orleans — in case you’ve somehow missed the team’s biggest reason for disappointment — has posted the worst clutch record in the league (9-18) and are the most frightful team in the league at converting deep shots (16.0%!!!) with five minutes or less in a game where the difference in the score is five points or less.

After Thursday’s 122-116 loss to the OKC Thunder, Ernie Johnson of TNT alluded to the dismal ability of the Pelicans to close out games. I can’t remember exactly what he quoted, but it was something along the lines of New Orleans has a 5-15 record when the final score is six points or less.

If that news isn’t fun enough, Anthony Davis and Nikola Mirotic are expected to be sidelined for today’s contest and Julius Randle is questionable.

And although E’Twaun Moore isn’t listed on this report, remember that Alvin Gentry said Moore could use a lot of time to rest up his lingering injuries that have hindered his production since late November.

So, please, geaux Pels!

Where To Watch

What: New Orleans Pelicans vs San Antonio Spurs

Where: Smoothie King Center Arena

When: Saturday, January 26, 2018, 5:00 p.m. Central

How: FSNO, 99.5 FM WRNO

Spread: +1.5