The New Orleans Pelicans will host the San Antonio Spurs at Smoothie King Center on Wednesday. The winner will play the Los Angeles Clippers for the No.8 seed in the Western Conference. Tip off is at 9:30 p.m.
The teams are both 6-4 in their last 10 games. San Antonio has been without All-Star guard Dejounte Murray for five of those games, while New Orleans has missed star forward Brandon Ingram for the same amount of time. Ingram is listed as probable, but he said he expects to play.
The 2020 All-Star averaged 22.7 points, 5.8 rebounds and 5.2 assists this season for New Orleans. The forward also scored 30 points or more 10 times in 2021-22.
The forward averaged 24.2 points in two games against the Spurs this year, but he has struggled from deep. Ingram shot 28.6% from three-point range during his last 10 games. Against San Antonio this season, his three-point percentage dropped to 11.1%.
New Orleans acquired the longtime Portland Trail Blazers guard at the trade deadline this season. As a Pelican, McCollum has averaged 24.3 points, 5.8 assists and 4.5 rebounds. In two losses against San Antonio, the former NBA Most Improved Player scored 36 and 32 points, respectively.
Since adding McCollum, the Pelicans are 14-14.
The longest tenured Spur has been the team’s best player this season. A first time all-star, Murray led the league in steals per game with 2.0. His 13 triple-doubles were enough for second in the league behind reigning MVP Nikola Jokic, and the guard is now the Spurs’ all-time leader in triple-doubles.
Murray averaged 21 points, 9.2 assists and 8.3 rebounds this season. In the team’s lone loss to New Orleans, Murray scored 17 points and grabbed nine rebounds. The Pelicans won that game 124-91.
The Olympic gold medalist struggled to start the season. After the All-Star break, the forward’s numbers climbed. Since then, he has averaged 20.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.9 assists.
Johnson‘s three-point shooting has also improved dramatically. He has made five or more threes in 6 games since the All-Star break and is shooting 39.8% from deep this year, up from 33.1% last season.
The Pelicans’ starting center has been a double-double machine this season. His 50 double-doubles were good enough for third in the league. Valanciunas‘s 11.4 rebounds per game gave him the seventh best average. He also grabbed 15 boards or more 16 times in 2021-22.
Valanciunas was a nightmare for San Antonio during last season’s play-in game. Then a Memphis Grizzly, the center scored 23 points to go with 23 rebounds. Memphis won that game 100-96.
Wednesday night’s game could be Walker‘s last in a Spurs uniform. The 23-year-old is in the final season of his rookie contract. Walker has been streaky but saw improvement after the All-Star break. Since then he has scored 20 points or more in eight games and is averaging 15.3 points.
The Spurs will likely need a strong performance from the fourth-year guard to advance.
The #MetaQuestPlayIn Schedule!
WIN TO GET IN.
The Hornets and Hawks face off for the opportunity to face the Cavs for the #8 seed in the East.
The Pelicans and Spurs will battle for the opportunity to face the Clippers for the #8 seed in the West. pic.twitter.com/WzbiNAZBxA
— NBA (@NBA) April 13, 2022
The Spurs will attempt to keep from extending the longest playoff drought in the franchise’s history. The team has missed the playoffs each of the last two seasons after 22 consecutive appearances.