Pelicans are heading in the right direction and need to find a way to beat the struggling Spurs team

The New Orleans Pelicans face a San Antonio Spurs roster tonight who is in a noticeable frenzy after starting the season with five wins in their first seven games. Since that good stretch, Spurs have only picked up a single win in their last 11 competitions.

So the mindset should be very similar to New Orleans’ approach against Golden State, a team without four of their five starters: Ignore the level of the competition and just prevail your best foot forward.

“We talked in the dressing room about just having to live up to our standards,” said Willie Green after Monday’s 128-83 win over the Warriors. “We want to respect our opponents, but we just want to play our style.”

The New Orleans players fulfilled their head coach’s wishes to the last detail, taking a double-digit lead early on and then never letting off the gas.

The Pelicans should strive to duplicate this approach in San Antonio.

After Dejounte Murray’s move to Atlanta in the summer, it was expected that the Spurs would reside at or near the end of the Western Conference. That’s where they sit, with just two teams below them in the standings.

The Lakers are one of those two teams, but in case you missed it, Los Angeles smashed San Antonio last Sunday and won by a final score of 123-92.

In fact, the Spurs have dropped an average of 23 points in their last five games.

So, as you can see, it’s entirely fair to say they’re in a whirl.

During that span, Devin Vassell (18.3 points, 2.8 3s) and Jacob Poeltl (16.8 points, 9.8 rebounds) both put up numbers, but the rest of their group struggled badly, including Keldon Johnson (14.5 points, 31.3 FG%).

Unsurprisingly, San Antonio has easily been ranked as the worst team in the league in their last five games with a horrific -23.1 net rating. Conversely, New Orleans ranks as the best, leading the league with a net rating of +15.7.

That mark is higher than even Sacramento and Indiana, two teams that haven’t suffered losses in their last five games.

While they’ve won four of their last five, the Pelicans are 10-7 overall. The record looks good, but not great. Under the hood, however, there’s a lot more to like than dislike, as New Orleans ranks in the top 10 in a number of different categories, including several all-inclusive stats.

There are four teams that currently boast top 10 offense and defense. New Orleans is one of those teams, with Cleveland, Dallas and Phoenix also at the table.

“I think we’re excited about where we stand, but we also know that we can continue to grow,” said Green after yesterday’s practice session. “We still have a few games ahead of us that are important to us.

“We just want to keep our heads down, work and build – and we’re doing that. You see some of the stats, I think that’s what it comes down to that we’re a really good team.

Had New Orleans found a way to turn an overtime loss or two in their favor, most would probably view this team in a very different light. However, players took the results in stride, realizing that the early unlucky losses should strengthen the character and ultimately pay off.

“We’re 10-7, but we should be at least 12-5,” CJ McCollum said yesterday. “I’d like to be 13-4 but I think that’s a good step in the right direction. Going through heavy losses teaches you how to win. You learn to appreciate possessions more, learn to communicate better. I think for us those losses will help as the season progresses if we get into those kinds of situations later on.

The Pelicans should beat the Spurs on Wednesday. They are clearly the stronger team, especially lately. However, should New Orleans find themselves in a dogfight against a suddenly inspired San Antonio side, we hope lessons have been learned from those OT losses so a path to victory can be found.

Who: Pelicans from New Orleans (10-7) on San Antonio Spurs (6-12)

When: Nov 23, 2022 7:00pm CT

Where to see: Bally Sports New Orleans, League Passport

Where to hear: WRNO 99.5

For more pelicans talk, subscribe to The Bird Calls podcast feed iTunes, Spotify, stapler or Google podcast. You can follow this author on Twitter at @OlehKosel.


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