Game On: Spurs @ Pelicans

Published: January 13, 2014

Tonight, the dreaded Spurs come to town to take on the Pelicans with both teams at less than 100%. San Antonio will be missing Danny Green and Tiago Splitter, while Manu Ginobili is set to return after a brief absence. New Orleans, of course, will be without both Ryan Anderson and Jrue Holiday, and Tyreke Evans is out again today with his ankle sprain. Unfortunately, not only are the Pelicans’ missing pieces more pivotal to their success than the Spurs’ injured players, but there’s also the small caveat that San Antonio is just a far superior team than New Orleans.

What the Spurs do well

Besides the overall themes of “team basketball” and “execution”, the Spurs excel in a plethora of smaller areas.

  1. Defensive rebounding. The Spurs collect 76.2% of opponents’ misses, 3rd best in the NBA. This will present an interesting match-up for the Pelicans, who come into tonight’s game with the 5th best offensive rebound rate (29.1%) in the NBA.
  2. 3-point shooting. San Antonio currently possesses the best 3-point percentage in the NBA at 39.8%. They attempt just under 21 per game, which is right around the league average.
  3. Attack the paint. While the Spurs don’t run a ton of post plays for their big men, they are still 4th in the NBA with 47.8 points in the paint per game. How? Superb ball movement and Tony Parker.

What the Spurs don’t do well

  1. Offensive rebounding. The Spurs are the 7th worst offensive rebounding team in the NBA, collecting just 23.2% of their own misses. The fact that Splitter is out as well should not bode well for their chances of improvement in this area, either. That being said, San Antonio’s struggles in this area are partially by design, as they often opt for getting set defensively over crashing the offensive glass and risking allowing fast break points.
  2. Get to the free throw line. San Antonio doesn’t don’t shoot very many free throws, averaging just .226 free throw attempts per field goal attempt (2nd worst in the NBA). That being said, the Pelicans allow .320 free throw attempts per field goal attempt (2nd worst in the NBA), so something has to give here.

How the Pelicans can take advantage

  1. Dominate the defensive glass. The Spurs are simply too good offensively to give them second chances. If New Orleans allows San Antonio to approach an offensive rebound rate of 30%, their chances of winning will likely be slim.
  2. Don’t pack the paint on defense at the expense of the perimeter. Defensively, the Pelicans like to make protecting the paint their top priority, which is typically fine. Against the Spurs, however, it’s not. A Splitter-less San Antonio team will have limited options inside, but is always good at generating good looks from long range. If New Orleans doesn’t work to prevent these looks, the Spurs will make them pay. It’s just what they do.
  3. Keep AD as close to the rim as possible. To beat the Spurs, you not only need to defend the 3-point line, but you also need a paint protector who can contest the drives of attacking guards like Tony Parker. Anthony Davis is the only player on this Pelicans team remotely capable of handling that task. If he wanders too far from the rim, San Antonio’s quick guards will take advantage.
  4. No free points. San Antonio is good enough on offense already, and that’s without earning many free throws. If the New Orleans sends them to the line as frequently as they typically send other teams to the charity stripe, things could get ugly.

Let’s see if the Pelicans can keep this one close. Enjoy the game!


UPDATE (6 PM): Already updated this above, but Tyreke Evans (ankle) will sit out again tonight, while Manu Ginobili, who was questionable, will play and start.

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