The San Antonio Spurs will travel to the Smoothie King Center on Sunday for a Western Conference clash versus the up-and-coming New Orleans Pelicans.
New Orleans enters its home-opener with a 1-1 overall record after splitting road games against the Toronto Raptors and Miami Heat. On the other hand, the Spurs are trying to make it back to the playoffs after ending their streak of 22 consecutive postseason appearances.
Can San Antonio take down Zion Williamson and the Pelicans on the road on Sunday?
Spurs run past Grizzlies on opening night
DeMar DeRozan scored 28 points to lead seven Spurs players in double-figures en route to a 131-119 win against the Memphis Grizzlies in their first regular season game on Wednesday. DeJounte Murray added 21 points for the Spurs, who played without fourth-year guard Derrick White, who is still recovering from left toe surgery.
Guards Lonnie Walker IV and Keldon Johnson both started against the Grizzlies and turned in impressive performances. Walker 16 points and six rebounds while shooting 3-for-4 from beyond the arc in the win while Johnson added 16 points, five boards, and three steals. Thanks to their defensive versatility and 3-point shooting, both guards seem to be a good fit alongside Murray and DeRozan. In limited action as a rookie, Johnson shot a blistering 59.1 percent from 3-point range while Walker is a career 41.5 percent 3-point shooter.
Fresh off their first win of the season, the Spurs are looking to continue their momentum while playing at a much faster pace this season. Last season, the Spurs finished in the middle-of-the-pack in terms of overall pace after head coach Gregg Popovich altered his offensive philosophy inside the NBA Bubble. Fast forward a few months later and it looks like San Antonio will be one of the fastest-paced teams in the league this year. The Spurs come into Sunday’s matchup ranked second in the league in pace at 109 possessions per game. They also finished the game against Memphis with a 120.2 offensive rating, also good for second in the NBA.
Zion’s big game not enough for Pelicans on Christmas Day
Zion Williamson exploded for 32 points and 14 rebounds but it wasn’t enough in a 111-98 Christmas Day loss versus the Miami Heat. Brandon Ingram finished with 28 points for the Pelicans, who shot just 39.7 percent from the field and 28.6 percent from 3-point range in the loss.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the Pelicans’ loss was that Williamson finally looked like the player that basketball fans have been expecting to see since he was selected No. 1 overall in the 2019 NBA Draft. Head coach Stan Van Gundy seems content to let Williamson loose, giving him a career-high 38 minutes in the Christmas Day loss.
Another thing that stood out on Christmas Day was the lack of depth on the Pelicans’ bench. J.J. Redick fouled out and made just 1 of his 7 shot attempts while Eric Bledsoe (2-of-10) and Lonzo Ball (2-of-8) also struggled from the field in the loss. Jaxon Hayes and Nico Melli also struggled defensively, especially in the second quarter, allowing the Heat to score 37 points in that frame.