The Spurs snatched defeat from the jaws of victory Wednesday night against the Pelicans.
The San Antonio Spurs could be at a critical juncture in their season. Heading into Wednesday night’s game matchup against the New Orleans Pelicans the Spurs sat at 50-30, good for fourth place in the Western Conference but only three games ahead of the ninth-place Denver Nuggets. A win against the Pelicans followed by handful of strong performances leading up to Kawhi Leonard‘s return could cement a top seed in the Western Conference. On the other hand, a weak finish to the season could result in the team missing the post-season for the first time in over twenty years. With so few games remaining, Wednesday’s game against the Pelicans (only a game and a half behind the Spurs) could end up being far more important than it appears.
Although the Spurs have struggled for much of the season on the offensive end, they have been playing with a renewed sense of urgency on that end of the floor of late, and the trend continued against the Pels. LaMarcus Aldridge paced the Spurs with eight points in the first quarter, and a strong effort by the rest of the rotation allowed the Spurs to score 29-24 lead into the second quarter. The run continued and the Spurs extended the lead to thirteen at 47-34, but LaMarcus Aldridge left the game with a right ankle sprain late in the quarter. The Pelicans were able to cut the lead to six, but Manu Ginobili scored the Spurs’ final six points of the quarter, allowing them to maintain a nine-point lead going into halftime.
With Joffrey Lauvergne starting the second half in place of LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Gay finding his stroke, the Spurs pushed the lead back to thirteen, but the Pelicans cut it to eight again going into the fourth. In the final period, the Spurs offense that had carried them throughout the first three periods stalled out. The Spurs inability to make shots down the stretch and box out the Pelicans on the boards allowed the Pelicans to fight back to a one-point lead at 114-113. The Spurs failed to get the rebound on a second missed free-throw by Jrue Holiday, allowing Anthony Davis to get the board and draw another foul. Davis sank both free throws to give the Pelicans a three-point lead at 119-116, and the Spurs were unable to fight back. After one more pair of free throws, the Pelicans stole the victory at the AT&T Center 121-116.
Rudy Gay had 19 points in the losing effort. Dejounte Murray added 18 points and 9 rebounds and Manu Ginobili chipped in 17. For the Pelicans, Anthony Davis scored 26 points and grabbed 15 rebounds, and Jrue Holiday added 25 points of his own.
The Spurs will try to get back on track Saturday against the Lakers. Tip-off is at 8:00 p.m. CST.