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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs. New Orleans Pelicans

Can the Silver and Black snap their longest losing streak in more than three decades?

New Orleans Pelicans v San Antonio Spurs Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images

November was one of the worst months of basketball in franchise history for the San Antonio Spurs. Their competitive rebuild quickly devolved into an unconditional tank as inexperience and injuries took their toll, resulting in the worst defense, second-least-efficient offense, and an abysmal 1-14 record that these youngsters would love to put behind them.

The holiday season is supposed to spread cheer, and the Silver and Black will look to give fans an early present by stifling their longest losing streak in more than three decades. However, with a divisional contest versus the New Orleans Pelicans on the docket, notching a much-needed victory will probably be easier said than done, even at the AT&T Center.

San Antonio Spurs (6-16) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (13-8)

December 2, 2022 | 7:00 PM CT

Watch: CW35 | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)

Spurs: Blake Wesley (Out — Knee), Charles Bassey (Out — Two-Way), Dominick Barlow (Out — Two-Way), Jeremy Sochan (Out — Quad), Jakob Poeltl (Out — Knee), Doug McDermott (Doubtful — Ankle), Josh Richardson (Doubtful — Ankle), Romeo Langford (Probable — Back)

Pelicans: Brandon Ingram (Out — Toe), Herb Jones (Out — Ankle), Kira Lewis Jr. (Out — On Assignment), E.J. Liddell (Out — Knee), Dereon Seabron (Out — Two-Way), Naji Marshall (Probable — Competition Reconditioning), CJ McCollum (Probable — Competition Reconditioning)

What To Watch For

  • The number one priority for San Antonio heading into this matchup will be figuring out how to stop Zion Williamson. After sitting out last season with a Jones fracture in his right foot, the All-Star forward has quickly returned to peak form. He has averaged a marvelous 25.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 2.0 steals, and 1.5 blocks on 68.3% shooting in his last four games since dominating the Spurs a week ago. And only Giannis Antetokounmpo has scored more points in the paint than him during that timeframe. There are maybe a handful of players capable of defending Zion one on one, but Gregg Popovich doesn’t have a dependable rim deterrent that isn’t on the injury report for this contest. While teams have attempted to blockade the interior with extra defenders, the Pels have constructed a complementary cast for their generational talent. Even if you somehow manage to wall off his devastating drives or avoid sending him to the line, Williamson has the passing chops to kick it out to one of his seven teammates draining better than 40% of their threes this season. The Silver and Black catch a bit of a break with Brandon Ingram on the sidelines, but CJ McCollum and Jonas Valanciunas have scorched them in the past, and both of them are suiting up tonight.
  • Keldon Johnson has been on an all-time cold streak in his last six games, misfiring from every area on the court. He has shot 53.3% around the rim, 13.8% in the paint, 22.2% from midrange, 33.3% in the corners, and 19.0% on the wings. Those numbers are well below league average and a far cry from his blistering start to the season, where he was once on pace to nail more than 300 three-pointers while becoming the seventh Spur to record over 23 points per game. Part of this slump is mental, and part of it is due to how defenders have adapted to his play style. Players have stuck close to Keldon on the perimeter rather than helping on drives, suffocating most of his catch-and-shoot attempts. Even when he gets a glimpse of daylight beyond the arc, guys have chased him off the line and forced him to make rapid-fire decisions on drives. Some of these rack attacks have resulted in a timely assist from the third-year forward, but he has frequently reverted to the old habit of putting blinders on and missing wide-open teammates. Keldon is long overdue for a breakout performance, but will it materialize against a Pelicans defense that has allowed the tenth-fewest points per game in the league this season?

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

The Game Thread will be up this evening for those who want to chat through the game. You can also follow along with the action on PtR’s Twitter feed.