In the first half and the first few minutes of the second, it looked like the Spurs were cruising to an easy win over the Pelicans, but as Derrick White fell awkwardly out of bounds early in the third quarter, everything changed. With their best player out for the rest of the game with a knee contusion, the Spurs somehow survived a listless third quarter to regain their composure in the fourth and surge to a win behind a solid fourth quarter effort from Rudy Gay early, and closed out by DeMar DeRozan who finished the game with clutch midrange shots to secure a win for San Antonio. To win games, you need talent, a lot a heart, a good strategy, and sometimes just a little luck. Tonight, they most survived on grit, and hitting free throws and it was enough. They’re still alive in the hunt for their 23rd consecutive playoff appearance, but they’ll need to keep winning, and hope that some of their rivals will lose a game or two.
- I received an invitation to be in the virtual crowd today, but I turned it down, because it would have been too distracting to do that and also write this article. The sacrifices I make for you, my readers ... I hope you appreciate them. Mostly, I’m sad for my cat Cosmo, who would have been in my lap for the whole game, cheering on the Spurs.
- Drew Eubanks is a guy who I haven’t really been that high on throughout the season, but he’s been very solid in the bubble. He’s really improved the quality of his defense, and he’s capable of opportunistic scoring. He might be closing in on a roster spot next year.
- Whenever Josh Hart was on DeMar DeRozan, you could see #10 licking his chops. That was not a good matchup for the Pels, and DeMar left Hart on the court more than once.
- Despite rumors that Luka Samanic had left the team and was somewhere in Croatia, but I spotted him on the bench in the first half. Evidence is strong that he’s still in Orlando, unless he has a double who’s keeping his seat warm in the bubble. I’d like to see him play, but he hasn’t impressed so far.
- Alvin Gentry was dressed exactly like a referee for this game. That doesn’t seem fair.
- When Derrick White got injured in the third quarter, you could see that both the offense and defense both suffered. This is White’s team now, and if he’s out for long, the team won’t be going anywhere. It’s being reported as a knee contusion, so he may play on Tuesday or Thursday.
- DeMar takes more contact than any guard any I’ve ever watched in the NBA without getting calls. It’s like the refs hate him. He’s so strong that they let other players bump him all of the time and almost never call it.
- The Spurs hit 31 out of 32 free throws today. That’s amazing, and it was a big factor in keeping the game out of reach in the final minute, where the Pels were hitting everything.
The Spurs got out to a quick lead with a couple of Derrick White triples, capped with Dejounte Murray picking Lonzo Ball’s pocket for a breakaway layup. After a timeout, Zion Williamson led the Pels on a quick little run of their own, using his size to get inside and take the ball away from the undersized Spurs. The Silver and Black forgot how to shoot for a while, allowing an 11-0 run from the Pelicans to tie it up, while missing 12 straight. Noted sharpshooter Drew Eubanks broke the ice to put the Spurs in the lead, and the Spurs finished the quarter strong on both ends to lead 27-19 after the first 12 minutes.
The Pelicans defense couldn’t contain the Spurs in the second quarter early as DeRozan and Keldon Johnson went off for the Spurs, leading them to a 19 point lead halfway through the quarter. The Spurs defense, which we really haven’t seen much in Orlando, made an appearance in the game, and the Pelicans didn’t get many open looks in the quarter, and only kept it from being a blowout by hitting some difficult contested shots. The Spurs led 62-45 at the half.
The third quarter started off great for the Spurs as they rushed to a 20 point lead, but when Derrick White fell out of bounds and didn’t get up right away, it started to feel like it might not be all that great. It looked like he might have hyperextended or twisted his knee, but it was difficult to tell exactly what happened. Without White’s steady presence on both the offensive and defensive end, the Silver and Black sagged as they lost a bit of composure and let the Pelicans back into the game. Some questionable offensive call fouls against the Spurs helped to fuel the collapse and the lead was cut to 81-77 at the end of three quarters.
Rudy Gay started off the fourth with a steal followed by a 4 point play to make the lead just a little more comfortable. He wasn’t done yet, dunking the ball over Jaxson Hayes to regain a double digit lead. JJ Redick, Brandon Ingram, and Jrue Holiday took advantage of Spurs mistakes to keep the Pelicans in it, as they cut the lead to 3 with three minutes left. DeMar DeRozan took over in the final few minutes, and made clutch baskets as the Spurs held off the Pelicans, who made it interesting with JJ Redick hitting shots without running any time off the clock, but the Spurs stepped up to the line and hit their free throws and keep the game in hand for the good guys.
This team is singing a different song since the restart.
On to (virtual) Houston ...
For the Pelicans fan’s perspective, please visit The Bird Writes.
The Spurs have two games left in the Orlando bubble, Tuesday at 2:00 against the Rockets and Thursday for a rematch against the Jazz at a time to be determined later. If they continue to win, maybe there will be more this season. Let’s watch.