Don’t look now, but the New Orleans Pelicans (34-26) are breathing down the San Antonio Spurs’ necks for the fourth seed in the Western Conference. The Pelicans won their sixth game in a row against the Phoenix Suns (125-116) thanks to another monstrous effort from Anthony Davis.
The superstar big man dropped a season-high 53 points, 18 rebounds, and five blocks on the Suns on the second night of a back-to-back. Jrue Holiday added 20 points and seven assists. Davis is averaging an ungodly 41.5 points, 15.0 boards and 3.2 blocks during the Pels’ six-game win streak.
But the question now is whether he can continue his hot form against the Spurs (36-25), who finally snapped their season-long four-game losing skid with a 110-94 road win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. After dropping 38 points in losing effort against the Nuggets, LaMarcus Aldridge had another strong game with 27 points and six boards.
He also had a lot of help from the six other Spurs in double figures. Danny Green, who was sent down to the bench for the first time this season, responded with 22 points on 5-of-9 shooting from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, second-year point guard Dejounte Murray was a factor on both ends of the court as he finished with 13 points, nine rebounds, five assists, four steals, and three blocks.
Three keys to the game
Anthony Davis – Davis has been close to unstoppable for the entire month of Feburary, and has been the overwhelming factor for the Pelicans’ recent success. While the Spurs are obviously a strong defensive team, they have been susceptible to big games from opposing big men, two of which coming from Nikola Jokic. If Davis can continue to have a similarly huge influence, the Pelicans will have a decent shot of coming out on top on the road.
Backcourt battle – The backcourt of Mills and Murray has performed well in the two games they’ve started together recently. The Spurs need both of them to continue being productive parts of the offense. Similarly, the Pelicans need Holiday to continue his fine play of late and provide that strong second option offensively behind Davis.
Bench X-factors – After a strong start to his Pelicans career, Nikola Mirotic is in the middle of a shooting slump. He’s shooting just 38 percent from the field over his last five games. To his credit, he’s still contributing in other ways like rebounding and defense, but the Pelicans could use more of his shots to start going down. In the same token, the Spurs could do with one of their reserves – Rudy Gay, Danny Green, Manu Ginobili – stepping up and taking advantage of the Pelicans’ shallow bench.
Matchup to watch
Anthony Davis vs LaMarcus Aldridge – Davis has already gotten the better of Blake Griffin and Giannis Antetokounmpo during his recent win streak. Next up will be Aldridge, who has been having a terrific year for the Spurs. It’ll be a tough ask to completely shut Davis down defensively, but if he can at least limit Davis’ damage while coming close to matching his production on offense, the Spurs will be in great shape.
Pelicans projected starting lineup
PG – Rajon Rondo | SG – Jrue Holiday | SF – E’Twaun Moore | PF – Anthony Davis | C – Emeka Okafor
Spurs projected starting lineup
PG – Dejounte Murray | SG – Patty Mills | SF – Kyle Anderson | PF – LaMarcus Aldridge | C – Pau Gasol
Apart from Davis, Holiday is the obvious fantasy pick for the Pelicans. He has been on an absolute tear of late, going for 25.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 8.3 assists, and 1.8 steals during the Pels’ six-game win streak. The Spurs are obviously a top defense, but they have given up their fair share of 20-point games to opposing shooting guards recently, and Holiday could be next in line for a strong fantasy night.
As for the Spurs, Murray will be one to watch out for fantasy-wise apart from Aldridge. The second-year point guard had two particularly noteworthy fantasy outings against the Cavs and Nuggets, where he totaled six blocks and six steals in those two games. Murray had a strong line of 14 points, four assists, three steals, and a block in his first meeting with the Pels, and could just have another similar game with New Orleans’ notoriously porous defense against opposing point guards.
As good as Davis and the Pelicans have been recently, the Spurs are still the Spurs. They are a strong home team and have a stout enough defense to slow down Davis and his supporting cast. Take the Spurs to cover the 4.5-point spread at home.
The Spurs snap the Pelicans' streak as they get the 108-99 home win.
This game will be broadcast on Fox Sports Southwest and Fox Sports New Orleans. Tip-off is at 8:30 pm Eastern.