With major shades of 2015, game #82 saw the Spurs venture down to the Big Easy and take on Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans in a game that had major playoff implications heading into it. With an opportunity to vault into the fourth seed and host an opening round series, the Silver and Black had everything to play for. Unfortunately, so did the Pels.
In a late-season fight to avoid both the defending champion Golden State Warriors and the streaking Houston Rockets, the Brow drew first blood and the Spurs cold shooting prevented them from countering the blow. The trio of Davis, Nikola Mirotic, and Jrue Holiday poured in a combined 66 points, 33 boards, and 9 assists. The three headed monster stunned the Spurs early and it ultimately proved too much for Gregg Popovich’s bunch.
The loss has now set the Spurs with a first-round date with the defending champion Golden State Warriors. Given the season San Antonio’s had, it’s actually bizarre we expected anything less. The good news, however is this team has matched up surprisingly well against the ‘Dubs this season. With no Steph Curry in the mix, and with LaMarcus Aldridge playing the best basketball of his life, this series could end up closer than many expect. Don’t count this group out just yet.
- Tony Parker helped the Spurs weather the Pelicans initial punch in the first quarter, as he poured in a quick six points on 3-3 shooting. The short 5 minute sample size might have been the best basketball I’ve seen TP play in quite some time. He went on to score 11 points in 20 minutes of work on the night, but this is the type of productivity Spurs fans have been waiting to see for close to a month now. With the playoffs a mere 72 hours away, we can only hope the fabulous Frenchman has chosen the right time to kick his game into an extra gear.
- LaMarcus Aldridge had a tough night. The Pelicans swarmed the six-time All Star every time he touched the ball, and his teammates out on the perimeter did not supply him with a ton of support. Fortunately, the mediocre night should only be a minor speed bump moving forward. If LA has shown us anything this season, it’s that he is as resilient as they come. As far as the playoffs go, he has feasted on the Warriors this season. Win or lose, I expect #12 to continue his run of dominance throughout the series.
- Pau Gasol had a nice night in his limited time on the floor. The veteran big man appears to have gained back some confidence after a disastrous stretch of basketball for the future hall of famer. It will be interesting to see how Gasol will match up with the Warriors. A year ago, Steve Kerr exploited the leaden 7 footer by stretching the floor with shooters. If that is the case once again, we may only see Pau on the floor against the likes of Javale McGee and Zaza Pachulia. In a series where the Spurs will need all of the fire power possible, Pop will have to find some minutes for his versatile power forward.
- After recently playing some of his best ball of the season (15.5 points and 5 boards in his last 5 games), Rudy Gay struggled from the perimeter in the Big Easy. On a night that saw LaMarcus Aldridge struggle (for the first time in months), the only shot this team had of walking out of the Smoothie King Center (seriously, that’s the name of their arena) with a victory, was for Gay to get hot. Ultimately that did not happen, but you have to be pleased with what the veteran volume scorer has done to close out the season. He will be a vital piece moving forward.
- The collection of Danny Green, Dejounte Murray, Kyle Anderson, and Manu Ginobili had a very ‘meh’ contribution on the night. The Pelicans intensity seemed to shock the team a bit, and by the time they tried to mount a comeback of their own, it was too little too late. If the Spurs are going to have any chance of unseating the defending champs, this group is going to have to collectively bring it night in and night out.
The time is finally here, Spurs fans. See you Saturday.