The daily NBA preview takes it to the rim with tips for the New Orleans Pelicans’ encounter with the San Antonio Spurs…and the debut of a ‘once-in-a-generation athlete’.
13:30 (AEDT), Thu 22nd Jan @ Smoothie King Center, New Orleans
History: Played 71: Spurs 50 V Pelicans 21
Last meeting: February 2, 2019: Spurs 113 d Pelicans 108 at AT&T Center
Final Thoughts: Western Conference rivals the New Orleans Pelicans and San Antonio Spurs are both coming off wins as they gear up for their first encounter this season. But this clash has been totally overshadowed by one storyline: the NBA debut of Zion Williamson.
The Pelicans’ No.1 draft pick and a runaway pre-season favourite for Rookie of the Year honours, Williamson has been sidelined by injury since mid-October with a knee injury. Until now. The Duke star will be under enormous scrutiny.
For their part, the 17-27 Pelicans have done a decent job without their gun recruit. They have won five of their last seven and dropped a franchise-record 21 threes in a 126-116 road upset of the in-form Grizzlies.
Jrue Holiday’s 36 points included a career-high seven threes. Meanwhile, Brandon Ingram has come along in leaps and bounds, posting a career-high 49 points in an OT win over the Jazz last week.
The 19-23 Spurs are ninth in the West and still in the playoffs hunt. They have picked up impressive road wins over the Celtics and Raptors this month, while they are coming off back-to-back victories over the Heat and Suns.
DeMar DeRozan has gone achingly close to a triple-double in his last three games, averaging 21 points, 9 rebounds and 8.67 assists. LaMarcus Aldridge has maintained solid form despite trade rumours swirling around the seven-time All-Star.
Spurs struggle in the Big Easy
The Spurs have won 10 of their last 15 against the Pelicans, including three of four last season. But the Pels have won four of their last six against the Spurs at home. Both clashes in New Orleans last season produced totals of 240-plus.
The Pelicans are just 8-13 at home; the Spurs are 7-13 on the road.
At 17-24-2, San Antonio’s ATS record is bottom-four in the NBA. New Orleans are a middling 22-20-2 against the line. Both sides are in the NBA’s top five for going over the total, with the Spurs ranked No.1 at 26-16.
The hype around Zion’s debut makes this a tough game to get a read on. With both teams’ recent outings proving points bonanzas, the over shapes as one of the more enticing options.
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