The San Antonio Spurs and the New Orleans Pelicans play on Saturday night in a game that means a lot for both teams. Unlike most seasons, the NBA’s play-in tournament this season gives the ninth and 10th seeds a chance to advance to the playoffs. In the Western Conference, the Spurs are the 10th seed and the Pelicans are the 11th seed.
At 29-29, the Spurs are 3.5 games ahead of the Pelicans, who are 26-33. If the Spurs win tonight game, it’ll be very difficult for the Pelicans to catch back up. In such a scenario, they’d be 4.5 games behind with only 12 games remaining on their schedule.
For San Antonio, not only would a win go a long way towards locking up their spot in the play-in tournament, it’d keep their hopes alive of moving even higher in the standings. As it stands, they are only one-game behind the eighth seeded Memphis Grizzlies.
San Antonio Spurs Injury Update
Trey Lyles remains out for the Spurs. It’s looking less and less likely that he’ll return to the court this season. The team is being really quiet about the true nature of his injury.
DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay are both questionable for the game against the Pelicans. DeRozan has a quad injury that forced him to be a late scratch before San Antonio’s victory over the Detroit Pistons on Thursday night. Gay is dealing with soreness in his lower back.
If DeRozan can’t play play, expect either Luka Samanic or Lonnie Walker IV to start in his place. If Gay misses the game, expect more minutes for Samanic and Keita Bates-Diop.
While DeRozan is undoubtedly a veteran leader on this team, the Spurs have been able to survive without him. San Antonio is 6-3 in games they’ve played without DeRozan this season.
New Orleans Pelicans Injury Update
Josh Hart and Nickeil Alexander-Walker remain out for the Pelicans. Hart had thumb surgery recently and Alexander-Walker has a sprained ankle.
Steven Adams, the team’s starting center, is probable for the game against the Spurs with an ankle injury. James Johnson, who New Orleans acquired at the trade deadline, is questionable.
Spurs at Pelicans – How the Spurs Can Win
The Pelicans have a lot of very capable players. Lonzo Ball has had his moments this year and Brandon Ingram is one of the brightest young stars in the league. However, when teams go up against the Pelicans these days, their focus is on Zion Williamson — and good reasons.
Williamson, who is still only 20 years old, is averaging 26.9 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.6 assists, while shooting a sizzling 61.8% from the floor. How will the Spurs defend him? In previous season, head coach Gregg Popovich put Jakob Poeltl on Williamson but this season he has mostly used Keldon Johnson against Williamson. If Gay is able to play, he’s another player who could see time on New Orleans’ youthful superstar. For the Spurs to win tonight, they’ll need to find a way to slow down Williamson … if only a little bit.