All things considered, the NBA restart has been a success for the Spurs. Though they were having a down season in 19-20 and their chances of making the playoffs were slim coming into Orlando (they currently have a 1% chance of making the postseason according to Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight), they’ve performed admirably to this point, going 3-2 and nearly coming away with wins against established playoff teams in the Philadelphia 76ers and Denver Nuggets. Most importantly though, the youth movement appears to truly be underway in San Antonio, with the draft picks from the last couple years finally getting the chance to show head coach Gregg Popovich and the front office just what they have to offer.
They face a team today who are in the process of a youth movement as well, a New Orleans Pelicans team that is loaded with players born after 1994. This list includes first time All Star (reserve) Brandon Ingram, former #2 overall pick Lonzo Ball, and rookie sensation Zion Williamson, who has continued to be limited playing time-wise even in this restart. At 2-3 New Orleans is among the teams competing with San Antonio for the 8th and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Spurs will need all the wins and help from other teams as they can get if they want to continue their postseason streak.
San Antonio Spurs (30-38) vs. New Orleans Pelicans (30-39)
August 9, 2020 | 2:00 PM CT
Watch: FSSW | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)
Spurs Injuries: LaMarcus Aldridge (Shoulder - Out), Trey Lyles (Appendix - Out), Bryn Forbes (Quad - Out)
Pelicans Injuries: Josh Gray (OUT)
What to watch for
- It’s easy to forget now, but Derrick White wasn’t exactly completely healthy throughout the season, a foot injury suffered in November lingering throughout most of the winter. He appears to be fine now and has arguably been San Antonio’s best player, scoring at least 20 points in every contest except the 2nd game of the restart against the Memphis Grizzlies, a game where he still finished with 16 points, 6 rebounds, and 7 assists. He’s attacking the paint with the intention of either scoring himself or making something for his teammates and has been given the green light to let it fly from the outside, where he’s averaging 8.4 attempts per game in Orlando (as opposed to 3.1 on the season) on an outrageous 45%. He’s also continued his defensive prowess, becoming somewhat infamous for drawing charges at the Magical Kingdom after putting his body in harm’s way time after time to force turnovers. White continues to grow as a player at what feels like an insanely rapid pace. Hopefully we get to see the best version of him in a Silver & Black uniform.
- New Orleans rookie Zion Williamson appears to be on some sort of minutes restriction. The rookie wunderkind made his season debut in January (against the Spurs, memorably) after he was injured in training camp. Williamson has yet to exceed more than 25 minutes on the court during this restart and has even missed one game in Orlando when New Orleans sat him in their last game for rest. Because of this, he hasn’t truly stood out in the way most have come to expect him to in his relatively brief time in the spotlight. How much time he gets on the court could be a deciding factor in how this game goes.
- Jrue Holiday is still capable of putting up points in bunches. He’s averaging nearly 20 points a game on the season and is coming off a 28 point performance in a win against the Wizards. He could be a handful on any given night, but the Spurs should have plenty of young, rangy defenders to throw at him.
- Brandon Ingram has a real case for Most Improved Player award. His scoring average made an impressive leap from 18 points a night to 24. The same goes for his 3-pt percentage, which is not only higher this year (39%) than last year (33%). This comes with an increase in his attempts by nearly 4 a game, averaging a career-high 6.2 attempts a game (compared to 1.8 last year).
Other games to keep an eye on
Grizzlies-Raptors at 1 CT
76ers-Trail Blazers at 5:30
For the Pelicans fan’s perspective, please visit The Bird Writes.
PtR’s Gamethread will be up this evening for those who want to chat through the game. You can also follow along with the action through PtR’s Twitter feed.