The Spurs bus seemed to be on cruise control in the early part of the season, but tonight, the wheels fell off against a hungry Pelicans team that surged to a win tonight behind great efforts from Anthony Davis, Ryan Anderson, and Ish Smith. The Spurs have been one of the best defensive teams in the league this year, but tonight, they constantly let Ish Smith get into the lane to either shoot layups or dish to the open player that the late-helping Spurs defender just left. Even when the Spurs did stop Smith's drives, he ended up making shots.
The Spurs started out decently on the first few possessions, with a Tim Duncan layup and Duncan jump shot, and quickly got out to an 8-0 lead. Unfortunately for the good guys, this was going to be the high point of the game for them, as LaMarcus Aldridge tripped over Alonzo Gee's foot as he was backpedaling on defense and tweaked his ankle.
Spurs fans held their breath as LaMarcus was escorted to the locker room to check and retape his ankle. Boris Diaw came in to replace LaMarcus and used his agility and footwork to put Anthony Davis in a torture chamber until he gave up this nice layup under the basket.
But overall, especially on defense, the Spurs seemed to lose focus, and allowed the Pelicans to outscore the silver and black 22-12 for the rest of the quarter. Ish Smith came in about halfway through the quarter and simply torched anyone the Spurs put on him, and this would become a theme for the night. It could have been even worse, but Kawhi Leonard was able to hit a three and Rasual Butler closed out the quarter with a buzzer beater for the good guys.
Between the first and second quarter, Gregg Popovich gave a concise synopsis of his team's effort. "We didn't play well," he said.
"We didn't play well."--Gregg Popovich
The second quarter started with a little more promise for the silver and black, as LaMarcus Aldridge returned to the lineup and started the quarter. He didn't look to be moving all that well, but apparently he was well enough to play, and even with a gimpy ankle, he was one of the better players on the floor tonight on offense. He seemed to be a little slow on defense, having trouble getting back on his man after helping off him, and that led to some open shots for Ryan Anderson, who was fresh off a season-high 30 points against the Thunder. Anderson used the open space to advantage and sank one three-point shot after another, scoring four of them in the quarter. But it didn't go any better when the Spurs closed out on Anderson as he drove past them for a thundering dunk at the 3:00 mark.
Ish Smith continued to victimize the Spurs in the paint, getting past Patty Mills effortlessly. Despite how badly the Spurs played, they were only down by seven at the half, and the Pelicans took a 48-41 lead into the locker room.
After such a weak effort, you would expect the Spurs to come out of the locker room after halftime on fire and executing like crazy. You'd be wrong. On the first play, Coach Popovich called a timeout 16 seconds in he didn't like the defense played by his team. Despite the sloppy play, the Spurs had their best quarter of the game in the third, and were able to creep back into the game with timely three-point shots from Patty Mills and Kawhi Leonard, along with solid play from LaMarcus Aldridge. David West also had a solid quarter but Ryan Anderson continued his unconscious shooting from the three point line and Ish Smith continued to run circles around whoever the Spurs put on him. Despite this, the Spurs closed the gap to 78-74 at the end of the third quarter.
The fourth quarter started on a hopeful note for the good guys, with a quick three from Patty Mills. But, as had been the case all night, the Spurs weren't able to make a stop and the Pels quickly answered with a three from, who else, Ryan Anderson. This pattern was repeated for most of the quarter as the Spurs were able to get shots on their end, and hit a lot of them, but on the other end, the Pelicans used the penetration from Ish Smith to get wide-open shots for their players which they sunk at an alarming rate.
At 9:22, Coach Pop put Ray McCallum in the game in an attempt to try to find someone on the Spurs quick enough to stay with Ish Smith. It was partly successful, as Smith was slowed down a bit, but the Spurs were hurt more by the move as they struggled to score with the ungainly lineup. With 2:59 left, the Pelicans had built a 100-88 lead, and Pop waved the white flag, putting in a lineup of Boban Marjanovic, Kyle Anderson, Rasual Butler, Ray McCallum and Jonathon Simmons. The final score ended up 104-90, Pelicans.
Play of the game:
Anthony Davis blocks Lamarcus Aldridge's stepback jumper and hustles to get to the ball to knock it off LaMarcus to claim it for the Pelicans:
- Boban Marjanovic played the last 2:59 and made a basket, but for the first time in his career as a Spur, the Spurs did not win when he got onto the court. It's no longer an automatic victory for the Spurs when Boban plays.
- Tim Duncan had 0 (that's zero) rebounds in the game, for the first time in his career. Anthony Davis is just a bad matchup for him. He's almost everything that Tim is, only a lot younger and quicker. In a few years, he's going to be something to see. He may be the only worthy successor to Tim's mantle since Duncan entered the league. I think that Timmy will remember this the next time the Spurs play the Pelicans, and the outcome might be a little different next time.
- Kawhi Leonard had a good game but he was bothered by Pelicans players quick enough to stay with him on his drives to the basket, causing to miss a lot of shots that he usually makes.
- Both teams spent a lot of time complaining about the refereeing. They allowed a lot of contact around the basket, but the Pelicans were the more aggressive team tonight and the got the benefit of more calls than the Spurs. Tony got a technical foul for complaining with 6:35 left, but really they could have called that on either team any time in the game from the second quarter on.
- The only players on the Spurs with a positive +/- were Tony Parker and Tim Duncan. Maybe those old guys know how to play.
- Ish Smith got cut by the Wizards and was picked up by the Pelicans on opening day, and has played terrifically for them. The fact that a guy like Ish has a hard time making a team tells you just how elite the talent level is in the NBA.
- I really don't expect LaMarcus Aldridge to play tomorrow, since it's likely that his ankle will stiffen up a bit overnight. But that might be the only game he misses.
- Kyle Anderson got some burn in the second quarter and played well on defense but was a nonentity on offense, only scoring one point. He and Rasual Butler are still splitting time as the backup small forward, but Kyle is looking more and more like the third option.
- Writer's note: I wanted to use a photo of Ryan Anderson for this article, but I couldn't find any in the photo feed with any Spurs in the picture. That should tell you something.
The Spurs are now 9-3, in second place in the Western Conference, behind the Golden State Warriors. The next game is on Saturday, November 21, 7:30 PM vs. the Memphis Grizzlies. The game preview will be up at 2:00 AM, so stay up and read it. You know it's going to be good.