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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs. New Orleans Pelicans

The Silver and Black look to continue their climb in the Western Conference standings as they face a fellow play-in hopeful.

San Antonio Spurs v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images

The San Antonio Spurs survived a furious second-half comeback bid from the Oklahoma City Thunder as Lonnie Walker IV drained a go-ahead three with less than two seconds remaining. Those late-game heroics turned an otherwise underwhelming outing into an unforgettable night, but the good guys have another shot at a shorthanded opponent this Friday.

The New Orleans Pelicans enter this divisional matchup only a game-and-a-half ahead of the Silver and Black in the play-in race, making this one of the most meaningful contests for the rest of the season. With no Brandon Ingram or Zion Williamson, head coach Gregg Popovich and crew should end their seven-game homestand with a much-needed dub.

San Antonio Spurs (27-43) vs. New Orleans Pelicans (28-41)

March 18, 2022 | 7:30 PM CT

Watch: Bally Sports Southwest | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)

DraftKings Odds: Spurs -3.5, O/U 236.5

Spurs Injuries: Keita Bates-Diop (Out — Back), Romeo Langford (Out — Hamstring), Doug McDermott (Out — Ankle), D.J. Stewart (Out — Two Way), Robert Woodard II (Out — Two Way), Devontae Cacok (Out — On Assignment), Joe Wieskamp (Out — On Assignment)

Pelicans Injuries: Kira Lewis Jr. (Out — Knee), Larry Nance Jr. (Out — Knee), Zion Williamson (Out — Foot), Jose Alvarado (Game Time Decision — Finger), Devonte’ Graham (Game Time Decision — Hip), Brandon Ingram (Out — Hamstring)

What To Watch For

  • New Orleans has done their best to stay afloat in the Western Conference standings while Zion Williamson heals from an offseason foot surgery that has experienced several setbacks. Their superstar forward has yet to play in a game this season, and there is still no precise timetable for his return. As if the Pelicans needed more problems piled onto their uphill battle into the play-in tournament, Brandon Ingram suffered a hamstring injury about two weeks ago and has yet to get a green light to rejoin the lineup. Head coach Willie Green enters this Friday night matchup missing two franchise cornerstones, Devonte’ Graham, and a handful of rotational pieces, which is fantastic news for the Spurs as they look to supplant the Pelicans in the play-in race. As we saw against the Thunder earlier this week, there are no promised wins even when the opponent is severely shorthanded. San Antonio must show up prepared to keep their foot on the gas pedal if and when they pull ahead.
  • CJ McCollum is easily the most dangerous player on the other side of the court in this matchup, so shutting him down should give the good guys an excellent chance at walking away victorious. That said, slowing the ninth-year combo guard isn’t a simple task. McCollum has averaged 26.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 6.8 assists on .527/.404/.667 shooting splits since New Orleans acquired him at the trade deadline. Despite landing in health and safety protocols less than a week ago, the microwave scorer didn’t miss a beat in his return against the Phoenix Suns, notching 21-5-9 in 32 minutes of action. The 30-year-old swingman can get buckets with a vast array of savvy moves, and he is the definition of a bucket. CJ notched 36-11-5 last time out versus San Antonio, but with so many players on the injury report for the Pelicans, Dejounte Murray and company should have more success corralling McCollum.
  • Dejounte Murray and Keldon Johnson have been on a tear since returning from the All-Star Break. Murray has averaged 26.7 points, 8.7 boards, and 9.7 assists, and Keldon has averaged 20.7 points and 6.9 rebounds during that stretch. San Antonio’s one-two punch has been exceptionally potent as of late, and their teammates are joining in on the high-scoring exploits. Lonnie Walker IV and Jakob Poeltl have also been stellar, and this quartet has led an offense that has posted the sixth-most points per game (119.5) since February 20th. Herb Jones and Jaxson Hayes could give Poeltl and Johnson some trouble on Friday, though there aren’t many other names who should inspire fear on the defensive end. As long as the Spurs push the pace in transition and move the ball in the half-court, count on San Antonio winning another contest full of offensive fireworks.

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