After a brutal blowout loss to the Denver Nuggets the night before, the Spurs responded emphatically with a 112-97 win over the cellar-dwelling New Orleans Pelicans. After a close first three quarters that San Antonio led for the majority of but couldn’t quite seem to take control, they exploded to start the fourth quarter, which they won 29-15 for the final score.
Derrick White continued to be phenomenal with 24 points, 8 rebounds, 9 assists and 4 steals. Jakob Poeltl matched him up with 24 points on 10-12 shooting of his own, and Dejounte Murray had a “quiet” 10-12-10 triple-double, plus three steals. Brandon Ingram led five Pelicans in double figures with 27 points on 11-25 shooting (0-4 from three).
- Poeltl finally seems to have the respect of the officials when it comes to setting screens. In years past, opponents merely needed to flinch when he was nearby, and he’d get called for the moving screen. Many probably remember this, because several times early on a Pelicans player would flop forward a bit on a Poeltl screen, but no whistle. (Tomas Satoransky did manage to draw one in the second quarter after tripping over Poeltl’s foot during a screen, which opens into a whole new can of worms over whether it is always the defender’s fault when an opposing player trips over his stationary foot.)
- The Spurs managed to hold a tight lead — ranging from one to seven points — for the vast majority of the first half before a couple of Pelicans buckets in the final minute-plus see-sawed the lead to the Pelicans. However, the Spurs responded each time, with a Eubanks floater and later a Doug McDermott three to give the Spurs a 54-52 edge at halftime. It was good to see after McBuckets suffered his first scoreless outing of the season against Denver, but he finally got going on back-to-back reverse layups midway through the second quarter after missing his first three shots. For the night he had 13 points despite that being his only three of the game.
- Lonnie Walker had a strong first quarter, hitting three of his four made shots on the night to provide an initial boost off the bench, but he went silent in the second quarter and ended the half with 7 points on 3-9 shooting. On the bright side, he didn’t commit a “Lonnie” in the game (a.k.a. stepping out of bounds when driving from the corner), so there’s that. In all seriousness, while it wasn’t his best night with just 11 points overall after the strong start, he was still the leader in what was otherwise a weak bench performance from the Spurs, and every little bit helped as Devin Vassell had a rare off night with just two points on seven shots.
- After the horrific start to the season for Keldon Johnson from outside the arc, it was hard to imagine it would take him until just the 25th game of the season to rise up to being a top ten three-point shooter in the league. Heading into this game he was 9th in the league at 43.3 percent, and in tonight he hit 3-5 to keep upping his percentage.
- The Spurs entered this game averaging almost three points more per game than their opponents in the first and fourth quarters, but also nearly three points fewer in both the second and third. They were also 0-13 when trailing after the third (meaning 9-3 when leading). Tonight, they tied the Pelicans with 26 apiece in the second and scored just one fewer in the third to take an 83-82 lead into the fourth. The Spurs had built a seven-point lead earlier in the third off back-to-back threes from Johnson and Walker, but an 8-0 response from the Pelicans once again had the teams playing back-and-forth the rest of the quarter.
- As bad as last night’s blowout loss to the Nuggets was, it paid off in the sense that the starters were well rested. Having “survived” the middle two quarters, the Spurs started the fourth on a 16-6 run and never let up from there, led by offensive explosions from White and McDermott. Naturally it would be nice to see the Spurs do better in the middle quarters, but I guess if you’re going to pick two times to be at your best, opening and closing the game aren’t bad choices.
- Forget what I said in the preview about Jonas Valanciunas being a matchup problem for Poeltl. Maybe he was in past seasons, but not anymore with the improvements Poeltl has made. He wasn’t hesitant to take his offense up against the bigger-bodied Lithuanian, he didn’t get bullied around on defense, and they went toe-to-toe on the glass. If Poeltl isn’t in the race for Most Improved Player (along with Murray), then I clearly don’t understand the definition of that award.
- Another thing I said to watch for in the preview was rebounds, as the Pelicans are one the of top rebounding teams on both ends of the court for the season and in second chance points. It was no problem for the Spurs tonight as they won the rebound battle 55-42, 15-11 on the offensive glass, and broke even on second chance points at 14 apiece. Consider that a win-win-win.
For the Pelicans fans’ perspective, visit The Bird Writes.
The Spurs finally get a couple of days off before finishing their five-game homestand on Wednesday against the Charlotte Hornets. Tipoff will be at 7:30 PM CT on CW35.