The AT&T Center was filled with a playoff atmosphere as the Spurs faced Anthony Davis and his fifth seed New Orleans Pelicans.
The Spurs have had a tough stretch lately, winning just four of their last 12 games. Though they were able to win at home on Tuesday, it was against the tanking Orlando Magic. The Spurs desperately needed a win against a Western Conference team in order to force their way back into the postseason. That opportunity came on Thursday when the Spurs faced Anthony Davis and the Pelicans.
Despite the fact that New Orleans lost All-Star DeMarcus Cousins to an Achilles tear, they have been on a roll since for the past month. The Pelicans won 11 of their last 13 games going into Thursday’s matchup. This was thanks to Anthony Davis, who played at an MVP level over this stretch. The 24-year-old averaged 34.3 points, 2.8 steals, 3.8 blocks, and 13.4 rebounds during that time.
A thrilling game
The Pelicans jumped out to an early 6-2 lead as the Spurs fumbled on defense, but San Antonio quickly made up the deficit. LaMarcus Aldridge quickly went to work on Anthony Davis, pushing the Brow in the low block as though he were weightless. As the buzzer sounded, Tony Parker hit a three-point shot to end the first quarter on a 9-0 Spurs run.
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) March 16, 2018
As the second quarter ended, however, the Spurs’ offense began to fade. The Pelicans went on a 10-0 run before halftime, though San Antonio never relinquished their lead.
As the second half began, neither team seemed to be able to generate any kind of offense. The Pelicans went three minutes without making a basket. To make matters worse, Danny Green was elbowed in the face and had to get stitches.
Of course, it was Manu Ginobili who injected fire back into the game. As Anthony Davis attempted to shoot, Ginobili sprang from behind and blocked him. It was almost the exact same maneuver that Ginobili executed to win last year’s Game 5 of the Spurs’ playoff series against the Rockets.
On the Pelican’s next possession, Ginobili bravely took a charge from Anthony Davis This made Pelicans’ coach Alvin Gentry so irate that he got a technical foul. Immediately afterward, Ginobili drew a foul on Anthony Davis, who was also assessed a technical. The 40-year-old’s unselfish play re-energized the Spurs, and they managed to beat back the Pelicans’ attempt to retake the lead.
Soon after the fourth quarter began, Dejounte Murray landed awkwardly and twisted his ankle. Though Murray was able to walk off the court on his own, he was unable to return to the game.
Aldridge sealed the game for the Spurs when he drew Anthony Davis’ sixth foul. With Davis out, the Pelicans were unable to mount a comeback, and the Spurs won 98-93.
Implications of this win
With this win, the Spurs move back up into the eighth seed, putting them on pace to make the postseason once more.
This win is not just significant because of the playoff implications. It proves that the Spurs still are able to win against good Western Conference teams. Of course, there were still lapses on defense and a lack of firepower on offense. That being said, in this game the Spurs looked far more like the dominant team we’ve known for the past two decades than they have for most of this season.
For the first time in a while, the Spurs actually out-hustled their opponent. Danny Green put up a career-high 6 blocks, despite the fact that he had to get stitches mid-way through the game. Dejounte Murray stole the ball four times before he left the game.
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) March 16, 2018
The biggest reason for the Spurs success, however, was LaMarcus Aldridge‘s brilliant performance. Though 25 points and 7 rebounds don’t sound like an extraordinary game for the All-Star, it was impressive considering his opponent. Anthony Davis is an excellent defender and is leading the league in blocks per game. Despite this, Aldridge rolled over him time and time again, forcing Davis to fouled out because he was so challenging to guard. On the defensive end, Aldridge held Davis to just 21 points while only fouling him once.
Overall, this win was extremely encouraging for San Antonio. They faced a challenging opponent and managed to build and maintain a lead. If the Spurs can continue to play with this kind of hustle and grit, they have a good chance of making the postseason.
The Silver and Black will host the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday at 8:30 PM ET.