Pelicans.com postgame: Spurs 102, Pelicans 95
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
Austin Rivers is only 21 years old and in just his second NBA season, but he already sounds like he’s gotten his fill of the San Antonio Spurs. In his seventh career game against the Southwest Division rival, Rivers saw an all-too-familiar scenario play out on the New Orleans Pelicans’ home floor Monday. Once again, the Pelicans (20-27) outplayed the Spurs (35-13) for a large portion of the night, but the seasoned, four-time NBA champions still managed to prevail, behind a fourth-quarter surge. This time, San Antonio trailed 76-64 entering the final 12 minutes, but outscored New Orleans by a 38-19 margin from there.
“They’ve done this to us quite a bit,” said Rivers, whose 10 points and five assists helped stake the Pelicans to a 14-point second-half lead. “They’ve done this to us a lot. Every time we’ve played them, we have them. And then they get us in the last quarter. In the last six or seven minutes, they do this run and it’s hard for us to get the lead back. It’s frustrating, because we think we can beat that team. It’s not like we go into this game saying, ‘Man, we’ve got to play the Spurs.’ We go in thinking we can beat them.”
New Orleans had won four of its five previous games, but was seeking a victory against stiff competition after recently beating Eastern Conference squads Chicago, Cleveland, Orlando and Detroit. The Pelicans grabbed a 54-42 halftime lead against the Spurs, then held off a third-quarter Spurs surge to retake a 12-point advantage through three quarters.
Anthony Morrow (20 points, 7-for-9 shooting, 2-for-2 on three-pointers) joined Rivers in delivering a double-digit scoring game off the bench. Eric Gordon (19 points) and Anthony Davis (17 points, 16 rebounds, 4 blocks) led the first unit, which held its own against a San Antonio squad that reached Game 7 of last year’s NBA Finals.
Tony Parker (32 points, 12-for-24 shooting) again pierced the New Orleans defense with his patented fearless drives into the paint, scoring repeatedly on layups. Parker scored 11 of his points in the fourth quarter. San Antonio used an 18-6 run to open the fourth quarter to quickly erase its 12-point deficit and pull into an 82-all deadlock.
“We didn’t corral him enough,” Morrow said. “He got in the paint and made a lot of plays. I think we played really hard and the game plan was good, but I think he just made more plays down the stretch.”
It was still a two-point game with less than three minutes remaining, but Parker and Tim Duncan combined to score six straight points to make it 97-89 at 1:14. For the second time in a span of three weeks, San Antonio won at New Orleans largely on the strength of clutch fourth-quarter play. On Jan. 13 in the Crescent City, the Spurs prevailed by a nearly identical score of 101-95.
San Antonio improved to 6-1 against New Orleans over the past two seasons, with the lone defeat coming on Jan. 7 of 2012-13.
“I thought our team defense really struggled,” Pelicans fourth-year coach Monty Williams said. “We couldn’t keep the ball in front of us, especially in the fourth quarter. We played three good quarters and then in the fourth, the ball just kept going by us, and when you’re not scoring on top of that, it’s like a double whammy.”