Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs. New Orleans Pelicans – Game #29

Following a Rodeo Road Trip that was disrupted by COVID-19, the San Antonio Spurs are back in the AT&T Center tonight and they’ll take on the New Orleans Pelicans. The Spurs (16-12) are in first place in the Southwest Division, while the Pelicans (14-18) are in fourth place.

San Antonio Spurs Injury Update

Due to COVID-19 protocols, the Spurs will be without the services of five players: Derrick White, Keldon Johnson, Rudy Gay, Devin Vassell and Quinndary Weatherspoon. How long those five players will be sidelined is not known. It’s safe to say, however, that they’ll be out for another week or two. 

LaMarcus Aldridge, who returned against the Oklahoma City Thunder after being out since the beginning of February due to a hip injury, is back on the injury report. This time, the big man has an injured wrist. Aldridge is questionable for tonight’s contest.

DeMar DeRozan missed the Thunder game following the death of his father. He is expected to return to action tonight. 

San Antonio Spurs Starting Lineup

With five rotation players out of the lineup, the Spurs were forced to go with a starting five of Dejounte Murray, Lonnie Walker IV, Luka Samanic, Trey Lyles and Jakob Poeltl against the Thunder.

Tonight versus the Pelicans, Murray will start, as will DeRozan. Keeping Walker in the starting lineup is also really likely.

Up front, the picture is less clear. It sounds like Poeltl is now the team’s starting center going forward. While that hasn’t been confirmed by head coach Gregg Popovich, Poeltl started last game even though Aldridge was back in uniform. 

At power forward, the options are plentiful. Lyles started last year and played reasonably well as the starting power forward last time out. Samanic started last game and showed enough glimpses of promise that the coaches could opt to get a longer look at him in the starting unit. Keita Bates-Diop played well off the bench and he too could be in line for more minutes. Even Aldridge is an option, especially considering the coaches played him at power forward a lot against Oklahoma City.

Spurs vs. Pelicans – How the Spurs Can Win

Zion Williamson is an All-Star — and it’s easy to see why. In 32.9 minutes per game, the 20-year-old is averaging 25.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists, while connecting on 61.8% of his shots from the floor.

For the Spurs to come out victorious tonight, they’ll need to limit Williamson’s effectiveness. Interestingly, the last time the Spurs played Williamson, they held him to 7-of-22 shooting from the floor, his worst shooting night of the season. Unfortunately, Keldon Johnson — who was the man most responsible for Williamson’s lack of success — is unavailable tonight.

In previous matchups, Popovich has also been quick to put Poeltl on Williamson. That’s a strategy the Spurs could employ tonight, although it won’t be easy since the Pelicans also have center Steven Adams in their starting lineup.