Pelicans face formidable road test in San Antonio
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
The New Orleans Pelicans realize that in order to compete for a playoff berth in the ultra-tough and deep Western Conference, they’ll need to improve on the road, where they’ve lost four of five to open the 2013-14 season. They couldn’t ask for a less hospitable place to try to reverse their early-season road struggles than San Antonio, but that’s where they’ll be Monday night, in an intriguing Southwest Division matchup (7:30 p.m., Fox Sports New Orleans, Pelicans Radio Network).
Arguably the NBA’s hottest team, the Spurs (12-1) have won 10 consecutive games since their lone defeat on Nov. 2 at Portland. The Pelicans (6-6) are also in the midst of their best stretch of the young season, coming off a 3-0 homestand vs. Philadelphia, Utah and Cleveland.
Though many of the faces have changed on the New Orleans side in recent years, the franchise has dropped 13 of its last 14 games at San Antonio, including five straight, against a Spurs core group that’s remained relatively constant. New Orleans last won in the Alamo City against Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili on Oct. 30, 2010.
“It’s one of those games where we’re going to have to stay sound the whole game,” Pelicans point guard Jrue Holiday said. “San Antonio is a veteran team that knows their identity. They are going to be tough. We have to play as hard as we can and give ourselves a chance to win.”
New Orleans improved to .500 overall Friday with a comeback victory over Cleveland, the Pelicans’ fourth consecutive home win. New Orleans has not lost in its home building since Nov. 5 and is a solid 5-2 in Louisiana, but 1-4 everywhere else.
“We have to have better road play. Understanding that as a young team, we have to have the mentality to go into another (arena) and play your game, the same way you do at home,” Pelicans Coach Monty Williams said.
Monday’s game at San Antonio will mark the first time Ryan Anderson has appeared in a road contest for New Orleans this season, after making his 2013-14 debut during the 3-0 homestand. The Pelicans’ bench has improved greatly since Anderson’s return, one of the primary factors in the wins over the 76ers and Jazz.
“A lot of it comes down to your bench – you usually don’t get the same bench play on the road as you do at home,” Williams said. “But I think we have a different bench, with Tyreke (Evans), Ryan and (Anthony Morrow). We should be a lot better (than last season).”
After coming within one defensive stop of dethroning Miami and capturing the 2013 NBA championship, the Spurs have experienced no hangover from that bitter Finals defeat, including sporting a perfect home record thus far. San Antonio also comes into Monday’s game having rested many of its key players during the second half of a 30-point home rout over Cleveland on Saturday.
“We know we’ve got a tough challenge tomorrow, but our guys are up for it,” Williams said. “We know what we’re going up against. (The Spurs) were I think 28 seconds away from a championship last year. We know we’re not going to fool them. They do everything well. We’ve got to go and play a great game.”