Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs. New Orleans Pelicans

Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

After torching the Cleveland Cavaliers for over 120 points on Saturday, the Spurs prepare to take on their division-rival, the New Orleans Pelicans for the first time this season.

San Antonio Spurs vs. New Orleans Pelicans

AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX
November 25, 2013, 7:30 PM Spurs Time
TV: FSSW- RADIO: 1200 AM WOAI

Anyone still worried about the NBA Finals hangover? Good.

The Spurs are making winning in the NBA look easy and it becomes hard not to take it for granted when watching this team on a nightly basis. During their 10-game winning streak that was extended on Saturday night when the Spurs treated Cleveland like its own personal junior varsity squad, I write these previews worrying about which game the Spurs slip up on and mail in a loss that will make my preview look condescending and dismissive of the opponent.

Winning when it is expected is one of the hardest things to do in sports, and that is what separates the Spurs from most organizations in the sports world: a team full of very talented players has adopted a workmanlike attitude towards a game the franchise has been somewhat dominating for over a decade now. That isn't easy.

The schedule hasn't been loaded with many top teams from either conference so far, but the Spurs have done what they needed to do to begin the season: get out to a fresh start that allows them to put last year behind them, and give the team enough cushion down the stretch to avoid needing a full lineup running out on the court every night leading into the playoffs. Just 13 games into the season, San Antonio is passing all of the tests with flying colors.

None of this is ground-breaking information and most Spurs fans expected this team to shake off last season and come out strong in hopes of making another run to the NBA Finals. One team that has had a somewhat surprising and impressive start is the New Orleans Pelicans. Yes, the mascot could scare the hardest of children, but a young, talented squad that has no business competing for a playoff berth yet in the Western Conference is 6-6 on the year with a three-game winning-streak to sit just a half game out of the 8th seed.

In the process, second-year power forward Anthony Davis is becoming one of the more promising big-men in the league due his unique blend of height, length, athleticism and ball-skills. He truly is a small forward trapped in a power forwards body, but yet he still understands how to use his size when teams try to matchup with smaller, quicker defenders. Davis is averaging a team-high 20.7 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks per game. He is shooting nearly 50 percent from the floor this season and was a rebound away from a triple-double in the New Orleans win over Cleveland on Friday.

The guard position for New Orleans is interesting because it is a group that is playing very well despite the team whiffing so badly on Austin Rivers. Rivers has not come close to living up to his high draft position, and the Pelicans brought in Jrue Holiday this offseason to take over the point guard spot, which is something he has handled quite nicely. He leads the team with 7.3 assists, including a 2.0 margin in assists to turnovers. He also contributes 13.9 points playing next to Eric Gordon who is averaging 16.1 a game.

The trio of Holiday, Gordon and Davis had to carry this team for the first nine games of the season as the group awaited the healthy arrival of sharp-shooting Ryan Anderson. In three games back - all wins - Ryan has averaged 19.3 points per game, shooting 57 percent from the floor and a blistering 62 percent from the three-point line. Al-Farouq Aminu is getting the start at small forward, and Jason Smith starts at center for the Pelicans, but it is Anderson that will receive the important minutes down the stretch next to Davis.

The fifth piece of the pie for New Orleans is former Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans, who has revamped his career in New Orleans by doing something many felt he would be unwilling to do on a consistent basis - coming off the bench. So far his ego has not gotten in the way of him producing and improving this team. Evans is averaging 10.7/4.4/3.6 in almost 25 minutes a game off of the bench. Even with Anderson and Evans coming off of the bench, New Orleans' best lineup is Evans, Holiday, Gordon, Anderson and Davis on the floor at the same time, which is the lineup New Orleans was able to use in the comeback victory over Cleveland the last time the Pelicans took the floor.

Davis is becoming the type of player that will be a matchup problem for every team in the league, even one playing outstanding interior defense like the Spurs. He is that good. The key for the Spurs will be shutting down the perimeter shooting of guys like Anderson and Gordon and keeping Holiday from creating opportunities for his teammates through penetration. New Orleans has shown the ability to play quality defense and create turnovers, but it is still a young team learning how to value every possession and learning how to play team defense as opposed to one-on-one defense. New Orleans is averaging 101.3 points a game, so the Spurs defense is the key to me in this game. If it turns into a half-court game, the Spurs will improve to 13-1 on the season. If New Orleans can make this look like a run at the local indoor basketball gym, the Spurs may finally slip up.

Matchup to watch: For San Antonio it's all about taking advantage of the mismatches the Spurs will have on offense when New Orleans plays Evans, Gordon and Holiday at the same time. San Antonio can bully this Pelicans team, and it will need to because a competition of skill gives New Orleans more of a chance than that of execution and experience. San Antonio will drag this New Orleans team into deep water and then we'll find out how ready New Orleans is to competing for a playoff spot.

Pelicans
Lineups

Starters
PG: Tony Parker
SG: Danny Green
SF: Kawhi Leonard
PF: Tim Duncan
C: Tiago Splitter

Key Bench Players
Manu Ginobili
Boris Diaw
Marco Belinelli

Head Coach
Gregg Popovich

Lineups

Starters
PG: Jrue Holiday
SG: Eric Gordon
SF: Al-Faroq Aminu
PF: Anthony Davis
C: Jason Smith

Key Bench Players
Ryan Anderson
Tyreke Evans
Austin Rivers


Head Coach

Monty Williams

Pelicans perspective can be found here: The Bird Writes

Game Prediction: Spurs by 14.

As always Tony must dominate Fisher, and NBA league pass is recommended for those who are willing to pony up the cash. Almost every Spurs game will be broadcast there, which is especially helpful for those of us who aren't in the San Antonio area. Please don't post links to illegal game feeds in the game thread. Links to illegal feeds are not permitted on SBNation, but you can probably find them out there on the internets if you're resourceful and desperate.

Get your San Antonio Spurs tickets from Daniel Farias with Spurs Sports & Entertainment:

Tel: 210-444-5607 | dfarias@attcenter.com

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