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New Orleans Pelicans welcome San Antonio Spurs in season home opener, after mixed start to 2020-21 campaign

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The Pels hope to cut down on turnovers and other mistakes as they face the 2-0 Spurs at the Smoothie King Center.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at New Orleans Pelicans Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

After getting the season underway out East, the New Orleans Pelicans (1-1) return home to the Smoothie King Center as they play hosts to the San Antonio Spurs (2-0).

The Pelicans will be looking to put the disappointment of a 13-point Christmas Day defeat at the hands of the Miami Heat behind them. If they are to do so, they’ll have to do something that they didn't do last season and actually haven't accomplished in the last four matchups going back to November 19, 2018 — defeating the Spurs.

Those two losses from the 2019-20 campaign should be fresh in your minds. The first matchup last saw the Pels fall 121-117; however, it’s easier to recall that this game marked the NBA debut for Zion Williamson.

Zion recorded 17 points in just over a three-minute span during the fourth quarter, finishing with 22 points, seven rebounds and three assists. Thanks to minute restrictions that allowed for limited bursts, he spent just a total of 18 minutes on the floor.

The other defeat to the Spurs came inside the bubble, which effectively ended the Pelicans season. The 122-113 loss all but erased New Orleans’ playoff aspirations, leading to a 2-6 record in Orlando’s restart and ending the Alvin Gentry era for practical purposes.

The hope is that the Stan Van Gundy regime will bring different results, with Zion and Brandon Ingram helping the Pelicans find the winning column again. The two young cornerstones are off to fantastic starts this season as evidenced by Williamson’s averages of 23.5 points and 12.0 rebounds and BI’s 26.0 points, 5.5 rebounds and 7.0 assists.

For the Spurs, they arrive in New Orleans off the back of a very solid start to the year, sitting at 2-0. The first of those wins came on opening night as they took down the Memphis Grizzlies in a huge 131-119 win. DeMar DeRozan led the way with 28 points, finishing just shy of a triple-double as he also helped himself to nine rebounds and nine assists. Point guard Dejounte Murray also had a nice game as he finished with 21 points, six rebounds and nine assist and LaMarcus Aldridge added 20 points on the night.

San Antonio's second win came just last night as the took down the Toronto Raptors, 119-114.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Miami Heat
Dec 25, 2020; Miami, Florida, USA; Miami Heat guard Duncan Robinson (55) attempts a three point shot over New Orleans Pelicans guard Josh Hart (3) during the second half at American Airlines Arena.
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

If the Pelicans are to get the better of the Spurs, then keeping DeRozan, Murray and Aldridge quiet will be key — but that’s easier said than done. They’ll also need more rounded performances outside of Williamson and Ingram. The Christmas Day loss to the Heat was one where turnovers and poor shooting from the backcourt may have ultimately cost the Pelicans.

The issue with the backcourt shooting was something Van Gundy acknowledged in postgame: "They had a tough night shooting the ball, they shot 5-for-25. It was a rough night, no question about that. Those kind of things happen. I’m not worried about that. We have to start taking care of the ball and we have to start running back on defense consistently.”

Injury Report:

Pelicans: Wenyen Gabriel (Knee/Quadriceps Tendinosis) - OUT.

San Antonio: Derrick White (Toe) - OUT; Quinndary Weatherspoon (Knee) - OUT

Probable Starters:

Pelicans: Lonzo Ball, Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson, Steven Adams

San Antonio: Dejounte Murray, Lonnie Walker IV, Keldon Johnson, Demar DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge

Where to watch/listen:

Who: New Orleans Pelicans (1-1) vs San Antonio Spurs (2-0)

When: December 27, 6:00 p.m. Central

Where to watch: FSNO

Where to listen: ESPN 100.3 FM

For more Pelicans talk, subscribe to The Bird Calls podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @Tomjwade.

Enjoy the game and Go Pels!