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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs at New Orleans Pelicans

The Spurs complete their second back-to-back of the week in New Orleans.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at San Antonio Spurs Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

The San Antonio Spurs go on the road to play the New Orleans Pelicans after squaring off at home against the Golden State Warriors the night before. The Spurs played arguably their strongest game of the season at home against the Pelicans earlier in November, but the Pelicans have been far more formidable at home (7-1) compared to on the road (2-6). Factor in the Spurs playing in their second back-to-back of the week, and this game could go south quickly if the Spurs don’t bring their A-game into the Smooth King Center on Monday.

November 19th, 2018 | 7:00 CT

Watch: FSSW | Listen: WOAI

Spurs (8-7) at Pelicans (9-7)

Injury report

San Antonio Spurs

Dejounte Murray (Out Indefinitely - Knee), Lonnie Walker IV (Targeting December Return - Knee), Pau Gasol (Day to Day - Foot), Davis Bertans (Day to Day - Concussion Protocol)

New Orleans Pelicans

Elfrid Payton (Targeting December Return - Finger)

Getting off to a better start

In the four games the Spurs have lost since Derrick White was inserted into the starting lineup, the Spurs have fallen behind in the first quarter, often by double digit points. After Derrick White had a +/- of negative infinity during the Spurs five point loss against the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday, I pleaded with Pop (in my head) to move White to the bench.

The quartet of LaMarcus Aldridge, DeMar DeRozan, Bryn Forbes, and White have a net rating - offensive rating minus defensive rating - of -14.2 in 74 minutes. This poor net rating can be mostly attributed to a horrific offensive rating of 87.1. Moving White to the bench should bring some natural playmaking skills to a second unit void of such ability. This will hopefully result in better looks for both Patty Mills and Marco Belinelli.

Ignoring the better fit between White and the second unit, Rudy Gay has been one of the two best players for the Spurs this season and needs to be in the starting lineup. A lineup featuring Aldridge, DeRozan, Forbes, and Gay have a net rating of +5.1 in 159 minutes. This should keep the Spurs more competitive in the early minutes of games, keeping them from having to play catchup the remainder of the game.

Pop listened to the voices in my head and replaced White with Gay in the starting lineup versus the Warriors. Gay responded with twelve points on 5-7 shooting in the first quarter. More importantly, the Spurs led for the entire first quarter, a welcome sight to be sure.

Matchup to watch: LaMarcus Aldridge vs Anthony Davis

Aldridge typically steps up to the challenge versus the younger and more-athletic Anthony Davis. Last game was no exception, when Aldridge dropped 22 points on over 50% shooting (a minor miracle this season), including twelve rebounds and a season-high six assists. It will be important for him to try and contain Davis on the other end, as he’s been on an offensive terror the past two games, averaging 41.5 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 6.5 assists.

By the numbers

Statistic Spurs (Overall) Pelicans (Overall) Advantage (Overall)
Statistic Spurs (Overall) Pelicans (Overall) Advantage (Overall)
Fouls 18.6 23 Spurs
FT% 82.1 74.8 Spurs
Bench Points 38 31.8 Spurs
Opp Points in the Paint 48.4 50.8 Spurs
3P% 37.2 35.4 Spurs
Defensive Rating 108.5 110.6 Spurs
Opp Points off Turnovers 15.1 16.4 Neutral
Points off Turnovers 16.3 15.4 Neutral
Steals 6.6 6.7 Neutral
Offensive Rebounds 11.2 11.6 Neutral
Total Rebounds 45.3 48.3 Pelicans
Offensive Rating 107.7 112.4 Pelicans
TS% 53.7 57 Pelicans
Blocks 4.3 5.9 Pelicans
Assists 22.9 27.1 Pelicans
Fastbreak Points 8.3 13.3 Pelicans
FTA 22.7 27.3 Pelicans
Points in the Paint 40.6 59.6 Pelicans

The Spurs only have a few obvious advantages versus the Pelicans. I think bench scoring is going to be key for the Spurs to come out of New Orleans with a victory. The Pelicans have a high-powered starting lineup, but they have one of the least-scoring benches in the NBA.

As is the norm when game planning against another team, the Spurs will need to try and limit fast break opportunities, defend without fouling to keep the Pelicans off the line, and try to keep the Pelicans out of the painted area. The Spurs are one of the worst teams at scoring in the paint and the Pelicans are one of the best, thanks in large part to Davis.

Final thoughts

If Aldridge can manage to play Davis to a draw, the Spurs might be able to pull off the upset. Still, I have a tough time believing the Spurs will come out of this one victorious. Smoothie King arena has been a house of horrors for the Spurs of late, and the Spurs have given me no real reason to believe in their ability to win a game on the road.

Vegas odds: Pelicans by 7.5

Game Prediction: Pelicans by 12

For the Pelicans fans’ perspective, visit The Bird Writes.

PtR’s Gamethread will be up this afternoon for those who want to chat through the game. You can also follow along with the action through PtR’s Twitter feed.