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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs. New Orleans Pelicans

San Antonio looks to bounce back against a playoff contender.

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

The San Antonio Spurs have stumbled in their last two games to Eastern Conference opponents. Coming off a loss to the Orlando Magic, the Spurs will look to bounce back against the New Orleans Pelicans in the sixth game of their home stand. The last time these two faced off in December, the Pelicans crushed the Spurs inside on the way to a San Antonio 121-106 loss.

Things have changed quite a bit for the Spurs since they last faced the Pels. Tre Jones is a full-time starter, Victor Wembanyama has taken over as the starting center and Keldon Johnson has been asked to play a sixth man role. With Johnson and Zach Collins’ statuses up in the air, the Spurs may need to go deeper into their bench again on Friday night. They’ll need a stronger interior game to snap their two-game losing streak.

San Antonio Spurs (10-38) vs. New Orleans Pelicans (27-21)

February 2, 2024 | 7:00 PM CT

Watch: BSSW | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)

Spurs Injuries: Charles Bassey – Out (left knee,) Sidy Cissoko – Out (G League,) David Duke Jr. – Out (G League,) Mamadi Diakite – Out (G League,) Dominick Barlow – Questionable (G League,) Zach Collins – Questionable (right ankle,) Keldon Johnson – Questionable (left elbow)

Pelicans Injuries: Herbert Jones – Questionable (right adductor,) Malcolm Hill – Out (G League,) E.J. Liddell – Out (G League,) Larry Nance Jr., – Questionable (left ankle,) Dereon Seabron – Out (G League,) Zion Williamson – Questionable (left foot,) Cody Zeller – Available (face; mask)

What to watch for

Winning the battle in the paint

In their last game, the Pelicans dominated the Spurs inside, outscoring them 52 to 38 in the paint. Jonas Valanciunas feasted in the paint for 24 points and 12 rebounds. Brandon Ingram got to the line eight times and Zion Williamson did damage to the Spurs interior. Granted, Wembanyama did not play that game, but the Pelicans took advantage of the Spurs weaker interior performance.

Getting Wembanyama back will help bolster the Spurs front line. If Collins is out, they’ll need Dominick Barlow and Jeremy Sochan to continue playing tough inside. It could be a long night for the Spurs if they don’t.

Guarding the three-point line

While the Orlando Magic were one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the league, the New Orleans Pelicans are one of the best. The Pelicans hit 37.9% of their threes, the 6th best percentage in the NBA. Trey Murphy III, C.J. McCollum and Jordan Hawkins are all big time threats from deep. Ingram has become an inside out threat, and Valanciunas can hit the occasional deep ball if left alone.

San Antonio has allowed teams to go off from deep this season. They’ll need to keep the Pelicans shooters in check on Friday.

Restricting unforced errors

The last time the Spurs played the Pelicans they turned the ball over 20 times. In their last game they caught the turnover bug, too. San Antonio’s second unit has especially been turnover prone lately. New Orleans is 10th in defensive rating. They force 13.8 turnovers a game. San Antonio has to value the possession and take care of the basketball against a good defensive club.