Playback Preview | New Orleans (9) – San Antonio (10)

It is perhaps the most balanced poster of all the “play-in” games this year. Closely matched in standings and balance, the Pelicans (9th, 36-46) and the Spurs (10th, 34-48) will face each other tonight in Louisiana, in a “win or go home” game. At stake, a qualification for the second round of the “play-in” in the West for the winner, who will then face the Clippers, defeated tonight by wolves.

The most interesting thing is that this cartel faces two teams that have had a fairly similar regular season, and therefore face each other to do battle in a final match of everything that is at stake. In fact, the Pelicans like the Spurs have started their season very, very badly, with only 3 wins in the first 17 games of the season for the former, against 4 wins in 17 games for the latter. Before gradually raising his head, especially after All-Star Weekend, with a much more forceful second half of the season on both sides.

Plagued by injuries at the start of the year and stuck at the bottom of the standings, the Pelicans have found a new lease on life after the All-Star weekend break.

The main reason: the arrival from Portland of CJ McCollum, whose goalscoring ability has balanced and stabilized the club’s attack, until then too dependent on Brandon Ingram in the absence of Zion Williamson. Very well during the 26 games in which he participated with his new team (24.3 points at 49.3% shooting, 4.5 rebounds and 5.8 assists), the winger breathed a new dynamic into the Pels game, They finished the regular season strong (13 wins in 23 games).

On the Spurs side, we will especially remember the good season of Dejounte Murray (21.1 points, 8.3 rebounds, 9.2 assists and 2 steals), who became an All-Star for the first time in his career and who , despite the turbulence, his team went through, he always kept the cap to carry his own. In their wake, it was all of San Antonio’s young guard who rose, particularly Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell, and the Spurs managed to jump on the “play-in” bandwagon despite a young roster symbolic of a rebuild. which doesn’t necessarily rhyme with “tanking”.

Presentation of the pelicans

Headlines: C. McCollum, B. Ingram, H. Jones, J. Hayes, J. Valanciunas.
The replacements: L. Lance Jr., N. Marshall, D. Graham, T. Murphy III, J. Alvarado.
Absent: Zion Williamson and Kira Lewis.
Coach: WillieGreen.

With no real playmaker on the roster, the Pelicans have found a formula that works after All-Star Weekend. With CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram as the main ball carriers, surrounded by an excellent defense (Herb Jones) and a Hayes-Valanciunas interior duo that limit spacing but complement the two scorers quite a bit in the pick-and-roll ”, the Pelicans’ oldest five has found his stride.

Coming off the bench, the profiles are mixed: Devonte’ Graham is invaluable for his shooting talents, while rookie Trey Murphy III proves useful for the quality of his outside shooting, especially in the corners, when he receives “drives – and – kick” by CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram. On defense, the third rookie in the rotation, Jose Alvarado, is essential because of his incessant activity. A real nuisance when it comes to pressuring the ball carrier, he knows how to slow down the opposition’s pace Finally, from an inside game standpoint, Larry Nance Jr is another important element: the Ohio native is capable of stretching the game on offense, and “switching” behind the screens on defense.

the strong point

The McCollum-Ingram duo. No matter what the game looks like, the Pelicans’ strong duo will be crucial. If the game is an attacking fest, no one on the Spurs will be able to answer to CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram (averaging 47 points per game combined). At the same time, if the defense takes over in this game, the Pelicans will also have an advantage because both players know how to “grab” when the pace slows and possessions often come down to “pick-and-roll” situations. . isolation for the best players. Once again, the Spurs will find it difficult to get past the Pelicans in this little game of “who is the most decisive?” “.

The weak point

The “spacing”. To show a better defensive level, Willie Green replaced Devonte’ Graham with Jaxson Hayes in his Big Five. With the Jones-Hayes-Valanciunas trio on the cover behind CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram, New Orleans has found a balance in the second half of the season, limiting shooting to 3-pointers. Since the All-Star Break, the team ranks 28th in number of outside shots attempted and 25th in skill level, given that it’s not really the strength of Herb Jones, Jaxson Hayes and Jonas Valanciunas and that Brandon Ingram is not particularly skillful (33%) this season.

Spurs Presentation

Headlines: D. Murray, J. Primo, D. Vassell, K. Johnson, J. Poeltl.
The replacements: Z. Collins, L. Walker IV (uncertain, “day to day”), J. Richardson, K. Bates-Diop, J. Landale.
Absent: D. McDermott.
Coach: Gregg Popovich.

the strong point

a good dynamic. The Spurs finished the regular season well, winning 6 of their last 10 games. Beyond the balance, positive without being exceptional either, it is above all the way in which the Spurs have scored their season that reassures: in these 10 games, the men of “Pop” show the 2nd best defensive rating and the 14th best rating offensive throughout the league! All without Dejounte Murray, sick. The Spurs start their “postseason” campaign on the right foot impulse.

The weak point

An inexperienced group. DeMar DeRozan, Patty Mills, LaMarcus Aldridge or even Thaddeus Young… All the veterans are gone and now the youngsters are in charge. A natural transition from one cycle to another. But we have to be realistic: Against a New Orleans team that’s a little more used to cleaver games, and we’re thinking of CJ McCollum and Jonas Valanciunas in particular, these young Spurs are at a disadvantage. Of the five majors, only Dejounte Murray and Jakob Poeltl have already made the playoffs.

the key to the game

Dejounte Murray. The fate of the Spurs depends on the performance of the 25-year-old manager, who is returning from illness. On offense, the Seattle native will obviously be the anchor. Everything will go through him, especially in the pick-and-roll, and it will also be interesting to see how the Pelicans will choose to defend him: a strict man-to-man defense? Permanent “switches” or hatches behind the screens? If the Pelicans can isolate him, separate him from his teammates by forcing him to do everything alone, the Spurs will be in trouble. On defense, Dejounte Murray will also have work to do as he will likely be tasked with slowing down CJ McCollum, who is very good with both the pick-and-roll and off the ball, to navigate between screens. From this point of view, there are reasons to be optimistic on the part of the Spurs, since the leader is capable of giving his rival a nightmare in defense. But it’s a busy night before the Fort Alamo All-Star…

regular season

Spurs 3-1

December 13: Spurs – Pelicans (112-97)

February 13: Pelicans – Spurs (114-124)

March 19: Spurs – pelicans (91-124)

March 26: Pelicans – Spurs (103-107)


NEW ORLEANS. Despite the certain dominance of the Spurs in the regular season, it is difficult to overlook the great dynamic with which the Pelicans enter this “play-in” match: 13-10 in the last 23 games of the regular season. New Orleans’ lack of “spacing” and its defensive level certainly raise questions, but the attacking power of Willie Green’s crew on offense, behind the momentum of CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram, seems truly superior to that of the Spurs, who it may not withstand the blow. Added to this is the support of the public, since the Pelicans are 9th and therefore will play at home.


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