As of Monday, the San Antonio Spurs already expected to be without a trio of starters in their Tuesday contest with the New Orleans Pelicans. Before tip-off, the rotation took another hit with Keldon Johnson being listed “out”. Absolutely depleted, it was no surprise the Spurs (19-53) lost to the Pelicans (35-37). The 35-point loss 119-84, however, was not expected.
San Antonio had no response for the size of New Orleans. Brandon Ingram led all scorers with 32 points, followed by Jonas Valanciunas (19) and Trey Murphy III (17). Valanciunas was an absolute force, posting the game’s only double-double. He added 15 rebounds to his point total.
The bright spots for the Spurs were few. One was Tre Jones who put in 32 minutes despite a “doubtful” designation before the game. He and former Pelican Devonte’ Graham chipped in 15 points for San Antonio, only topped by Sandro Mamukelashvili who led the team with 20 points.
Next Man Up Wasn’t Enough for the San Antonio Spurs
Missing Johnson, Jeremy Sochan, Zach Collins, Charles Bassey, and Devin Vassell, the Spurs recorded season-lows in paint points (32), paint accuracy (41 percent), and total points (84), as Project Spurs’ Paul Garcia reported on Twitter following the contest. Playing the second unit, the defense also took a significant hit. The Pelicans connected on 55 percent from the floor and 41 percent from beyond the arc. While the second unit struggled against New Orleans’ starters, the reserves played relatively well. In fact, they went blow-for-blow with the backups as both benches scored 32 points.
One of the big stories of the night for the Spurs was the strong outing for Mamukelashvili. He shined in his ninth game with the team. A recent acquisition from the Milwaukee Bucks, he nearly single-handily kept pace with the Pelicans in the first quarter. Mamukelashvili scored nine of San Antonio’s first 14 points as the teams were knotted up just nine minutes in. The task was too much for him to shoulder alone, however, as the Spurs allowed a New Orleans 13-2 run to close the quarter, setting the tone for the rest of the night.
Up Next – @ Milwaukee Bucks (51-20)
As if the test on Tuesday wasn’t tough enough, the Spurs will have their work cut out for them on Wednesday night in Milwaukee against the Bucks. Their second contest in 24 hours, and coming off of a flight nonetheless, the third-worst record in the NBA will face the best, and quite potentially one of the top MVP candidates, Giannis Antetokounmpo. Milwaukee has size and defensive prowess alongside the “Greek Freak” in the trio of Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday, and Brook Lopez. There’s also Sixth-Man of the Year candidate Bobby Portis. In the Bucks’ last game on Sunday, the trio of Antetokounmpo, Lopez, and Middleton accounted for 68 points in the 118-111 win at home against the Toronto Raptors.
Without the other two stars, Lopez was one of the leaders for Milwaukee the last time they played the Spurs in November. San Antonio got the better of that one in the Alamo City, picking up a 111-93 victory. Keldon Johnson led all scorers in that game with 29 points, supported by Devin Vassell with 22. Should both teams be at full strength on Wednesday, it will be something to watch how the Spurs’ young leaders matchup against the former NBA champions.
Check out the full Box Score at NBA.com.