Spurs vs. Pelicans: Odds, Hot Takes and Top Storylines for Play-in Game

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistApril 13, 2022

Spurs vs. Pelicans: Odds, Hot Takes and Top Storylines for Play-in Game

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    Randall Benton/Associated Press

    The New Orleans Pelicans and San Antonio Spurs used different strategies to lock up spots in the Western Conference play-in round.

    New Orleans added CJ McCollum in the trade market to partner him with Brandon Ingram in an offense missing the injured Zion Williamson. The Pelicans used an 8-3 run from March 18-April 7 to beat out the Spurs and the Los Angeles Lakers for the No. 9 spot. The win that sparked the streak came against San Antonio.

    Gregg Popovich's team responded to that loss with seven wins in nine games, including a road win over New Orleans on March 26, to jump over the Lakers and land the No. 10 spot. The Spurs benefited from a career season out of Dejounte Murray and improvements from Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell after Derrick White was traded to the Boston Celtics.

    San Antonio played strong basketball of late, but it is the underdog going into Smoothie King Center. New Orleans boasts the two best players on both rosters in Ingram and McCollum, and they could take over to continue their team's season.

Game Odds

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Spread: New Orleans (-5.5)

    Over/Under: 226

    Moneyline: New Orleans (-220; bet $220 to win $100); San Antonio (+184; bet $100 to win $184) 

               

    Only one of the four regular-season clashes between the Pelicans and Spurs was decided by fewer than five points.

    That was the most recent contest between the No. 9 and No. 10 teams in the Western Conference.

    On March 26, San Antonio had seven players reach double figures, while McCollum scored 32 points without Ingram on the floor.

    Ingram was not on the court for the March 18 game between the teams, either. San Antonio did not have a single player reach 20 points in a blowout loss.

    Those are the two best examples for what we can expect Wednesday in New Orleans.

    Both sides should be playing with a ton of confidence. New Orleans used a 5-1 run to lock up the No. 9 spot, and the Spurs went 7-1 over an eight-game span to land their position.

    San Antonio scored at least 110 points in six of those seven wins, while New Orleans achieved the same feat in all five of its victories during its stretch that confirmed the No. 9 spot.

                     

    Odds via FanDuel Sportsbook.

3-Point Shooting Could Decide Winner

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    The three-point shooting numbers of both teams are not ideal for a shootout to take place Wednesday night.

    San Antonio ranked 18th in offensive three-point percentage, while New Orleans had the fourth-worst three-point shooting mark, per Basketball Reference.

    Despite those totals, the Spurs and Pelicans should attack from the three-point line because two of the 11 worst three-point defenses will be on the floor.

    The sides combined to go 17-of-58 from deep in their previous head-to-head meeting, but some things have changed since then.

    Devin Vassell and Josh Richardson helped the Spurs' three-point numbers alongside Keldon Johnson while Dejounte Murray was out with an illness.

    Vassell and Richardson both hit four three-point shots in San Antonio's final win of the regular season against the Denver Nuggets.

    Murray, who is not known for his three-pointers, knocked down multiple shots from downtown in six of his last seven games. He attempted at least five three-pointers in every game of that span.

    Ingram rarely lights up the net from three-point range, but New Orleans was 3-0 this season when he hit four or more triples. New Orleans went 3-5 when Ingram knocked down three shots from deep. Seven of those games took place before McCollum's arrival.

    If Murray or Ingram gets hot from deep, his team could end up on top.

Spurs Need to Contain Jonas Valanciunas for First Time This Season

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    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    Jonas Valanciunas terrorized the San Antonio defense in all four regular-season meetings.

    Valanciunas recorded four double-doubles with between 16-18 points. He could play a vital role if New Orleans is to be successful, especially if he hauls in some offensive rebounds to create second-chance opportunities.

    The New Orleans big man produced five offensive boards in the most recent meeting with the Spurs. He had six such rebounds in the teams' first clash this season December 12.

    Valanciunas will also be key for the Pelicans because he has one of the lengthiest playoff resumes of any player on either roster. The center played 56 postseason games between the Memphis Grizzlies and Toronto Raptors. He has 22 double-digit rebound performances and 20 double-doubles in the playoffs.

    New Orleans should look to Valanciunas as a third scorer behind Ingram and McCollum. His paint play could force Jakob Poeltl into foul trouble and push San Antonio to shift its defensive strategy.

                     

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