Spurs vs. Pelicans Give-and-Go Preview

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Talk about going in blind. The San Antonio Spurs and New Orleans Pelicans face off on Saturday night, both teams going into the second night of a back-to-back and neither team knowing who will be available. The Spurs customarily rest several of their key cogs on the latter half of a back-to-back and New Orleans saw Anthony Davis leave Friday night’s game with an injury. Who knows who will be available?

In our attempt to preview the evening’s game, Mason Ginsberg of TrueHoop Network site Bourbon Street Shots joined us.

Andrew McNeill, 48 Minutes of Hell: So what’s the latest on Anthony Davis?

Mason Ginsberg, Bourbon Street Shots: At this point, still not much is known. According to reports, it was hurting him before the game, he tried to play a little on it, and they pulled him. I’d assume that he is also out tonight; can’t be too careful with your superstar, especially in a lost season such as this.

[Update: Davis will be a game-time decision tonight.]

AM: Assuming Davis sits, who else is missing for the Pelicans?

MG: Everyone? Well, not really, but it pretty much feels that way. Jrue Holiday, Ryan Anderson, and Jason Smith have been out for a while though. Gordon has missed the past four games with left knee soreness (thankfully, not the surgically repaired one), and Brian Roberts has missed the past two with a minor bone bruise in his left knee.

AM: From the Spurs side of things, we don’t know who will or won’t play yet. Typically Gregg Popovich likes to rest some guys on the second night of a back-to-back, but at the moment we’ve having this conversation, I haven’t received any emails saying someone will be out tonight. Since the fine from the Heat game last season, the Spurs have been very careful to send out press releases during the day of a game to say who will be out. So there’s a chance a D-League game could break out tonight in San Antonio.

MG: How else would you want to spend your Saturday night?

AM: Let’s go ahead and assume everyone on the Spurs plays tonight, Duncan and Parker included. What would have to happen for New Orleans to win?

MG: Assuming no Anthony Davis? A miracle. The Spurs would have to go ice cold from long range and the Pelicans would have to fill it up from distance. The Pelicans will likely deploy a starting lineup of Evans, Morrow, Aminu, Withey/Babbitt, and Ajinca/Stiemsma. If New Orleans is unable to effectively space the floor with shooting tonight, they have very little chance to stretch their five game wining streak while ending San Antonio’s 16 game run.

AM: Who will the Spurs likely have to keep an eye on? With Davis and Gordon out, who’s the go-to guy for New Orleans?

MG: Tyreke Evans and Anthony Morrow. Our own Michael Pellissier gave an interesting stat this morning: over the Pelicans’ past 13 games, the team’s best 2-man combo (minimum 100 minutes played together) is those two guys, as the team is +11.9 points per 100 possessions whenever they’re on the floor together.

Evans has played exceptionally well ever since entering the starting lineup, and Morrow has been very good offensively when the Pelicans have really needed him to be given all of the team’s injuries.

Ajinca has also been playing fairly well for the Pelicans as of late. Why Monty continues to start the fouling machine that is Greg Stiemsma at center, I’ll never understand; maybe that changes tonight.

AM: The Ajinca thing is weird to me. He played for the Spurs summer league team two years ago and was awful. Maybe the worse player I watched out there in Vegas. And here he is, back in the NBA.

MG: He has games when he looks like he can be a 10-12 minute/night center in the NBA, and other nights when he looks like he is just there for his 7’2″, 250 lb size and nothing more. If he avoids foul trouble and doesn’t get caught out of position on pick-and-rolls, he can hold his own in the middle, and his offensive rebounding has really helped this team as well (his 12.4% ORR in 750+ minutes this season is higher than Anthony Davis).

AM: You mentioned earlier that at this point this is a lost season for the Pelicans. What do you hope to get out of the remaining games?

MG: Priority #1 once all the injuries ruined the Pelicans’ slim playoff hopes was the development and progression of Anthony Davis. While he is likely out tonight, it has certainly been a pleasure to watch him carry the load for New Orleans over the past month or so, and it has created even more excitement and optimism for the future.

Besides that, my focuses have been on the rest of the Pelicans’ youth, including their head coach. Monty Williams has no doubt been given a tall task in delivering positive results given the team’s injury issues this season, but that is only an excuse for certain things. A coach touted for his defensive mindset has led a bottom-5 defense this season despite having one of the best shot blockers in the league, and his rotations haven’t really optimized the skill sets on the roster.

AM: What’s one fun thing about the Pelicans that folks can keep an eye out for tonight?

MG: It has been really fun watching Tyreke play lately. The Spurs have enjoyed Tony Parker’s ability to get to the rim at will for years now, but New Orleans hasn’t rooted for a guy like that since Chris Paul was traded. Evans has been doing it all season, but only recently has he finally started converting a high percentage of those drives into points, whether it be via scoring himself or dumping it off (he tallied 15 assists against Utah last night).

AM: Okay, last thing before you’re off the hook. Give us one random prediction for tonight’s game. Something that has nothing to do with the final outcome.

MG: Al-Farouq Aminu gets the most rebounds on either team. With Davis likely out, someone needs to pick up the slack on the glass. I think Aminu will do so in a big way.

Another wishful thinking prediction is that Greg Stiemsma finishes last among active Pelicans in minutes played tonight. A man can dream…

Tonight’s Spurs game starts at 7:30 pm central time and can be seen on Fox Sports Southwest. For Spurs fans looking for tickets to tonight’s game, be sure to visit our friends at TiqIQ.