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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs at New Orleans Pelicans

Spurs look to snap losing streak after tough loss to the Hawks.

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

The San Antonio Spurs are on the second-longest losing streak in franchise history, at 13-straight losses. It seemed as if they might snap the streak against the Atlanta Hawks, but couldn’t overcome Trae Young’s late game heroics in a 137-135 loss. They’ll have to bounce back against a tough New Orleans squad on the second game of a back to back.

After the loss to the Hawks, Gregg Popovich told reporters there is a chance Victor Wembanyama will not play on Friday, as he’s dealing with some hip soreness. This would be the first missed game of Wembanyama’s career if that’s the case.

The Pelicans are one of the Western Conference teams to make the knockout rounds of the In Season Tournament. They’ve been led by Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson, who is seemingly healthy, averaging 24 points, 5.9 rebounds and 4.9 assists in his 16 games. The Pelicans are a physical team that loves to attack the paint. The Spurs will have their work cut out to them as they travel to New Orleans.

San Antonio Spurs (3-15) at New Orleans Pelicans (10-9)

December 1, 2023 | 7 P.M. CT

Watch: Bally | Listen: WOAI/KXTN

Spurs injuries: Must publish injury report by 1 p.m. on December 1.

Pelicans injuries: Jose Alverado – Questionable (right ankle,) Trey Murphy III – Questionable (left knee,) Larry Nance Jr. – Out (right rib,) Matt Ryan – Doubtful (right calf,) Dereon Seabron – Out (G League)

What to watch for

Protecting the paint

The Pelicans are a rim attacking team. Williamson is a walking paint touch. Jonas Valančiūnas is a bully in the paint, and Ingram is a good playmaking wing. Over half of the Pelicans roster takes more than 50% of their shots from two point range. They take the fifth least three pointers in the league at around 31 per game. This may bode well for the Spurs, who allow their opponents to shoot the second highest three point percentage in the NBA (39.8%.)

With Wembanyama’s status up in the air, the Spurs will need Zach Collins and company to hold down the paint. Jeremy Sochan will likely get the Williamson assignment, which will be a test to his strength and athleticism. All hands will have to be on deck to stop the Pelicans paint attack.

Sochan off the ball

Sochan had his best game of the season against Atlanta, scoring 33 points and adding 8 rebounds and 6 assists. He did a lot of that work playing off the ball alongside Tre Jones. Sochan thrives as a connective piece, cutting off the ball and being a secondary playmaker. Thursday night showed how good he can be in a role that suits him.

New Orleans is a decent defensive club. They are 11th in the NBA in defensive rating. The Spurs offensive attack is undoubtedly better when Sochan plays more off the ball. With Wembanyama potentially sitting out the second game of a back to back, will we see more lineups with Sochan and Jones? It may be a key to unlocking the Spurs offensive attack against the Pelicans.

The battle on the boards

Much like protecting the paint, securing rebounds will be important against New Orleans. They are 14th in the NBA in rebounding, San Antonio is 22nd. If Wembanyama sits, that leaves the Spurs without one of their best rebounders. To keep big bodies like Williamson and Valančiūnas off the boards, the Silver and Black will need a full team effort rebounding the basketball.