The 2022 NBA Play-In Tournament continues on Wednesday with two more games. The Hawks will host the Hornets in a Southeast Divisional matchup in the early game, while the Pelicans will welcome the Spurs to New Orleans in the Western Conference nightcap.
In spite of San Antonio’s regular-season success at the expense of New Orleans, oddsmakers are siding with the Pelicans in the Western Conference Play-In matchup.
San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs have been a perennial championship contender during most of Gregg Popovich’s legendary reign, but San Antonio has entered a new era in recent years. Since the recent departures of Kawhi Leonard, DeMar DeRozan, and LaMarcus Aldridge over the past few years, the Spurs have entered a rebuild for the first time in over two decades.
However, the Spurs’ rebuild looks a lot different than some other teardowns we’re seeing across the league. While teams like the Pelicans, Trail Blazers, and Pacers spent most of the season trying to lose on purpose, the Spurs took their own approach. San Antonio is trying to thread the needle between continuing to contend while also developing young talent.
So far, so good. That approach likely won’t land the Spurs at the top of the lottery, but they hope to find new stars by finding hidden gems in the draft. That strategy has paid off well in recent years, with homegrown players like Dejounte Murray and Keldon Johnson devloping into solid pros over the past couple of seasons.
While the Spurs did well enough this season to qualify for the play-in, this team still finished 14 games under the .500 mark at 34-48.
New Orleans Pelicans
New Orleans has been trending in a positive direction over the past few years. With young stars like Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram on the roster, the future looks bright for this team. Unfortunately, Williamson has still yet to play a single second this season after suffering a foot injury last offseason.
Regardless of Williamson’s absence, Willie Green has still engineered an impressive turnaround this year in New Orleans. Since acquiring CJ McCollum from the Blazers at the trade deadline, the Pels have a record of 14-14. That may not sound overly impressive, but let’s not forget New Orleans got off to a dismal 1-12 start to the season. Back then, even qualifying for the play-in seemed almost impossible.
Between McCollum, Ingram, and Jonas Valanciunas, the Pelicans have quite a few useful weapons on offense. The Pels’ defensive anchor is rookie Herb Jones, who has blossomed into quite a find after the Pels nabbed him with the 35th overall pick in last year’s draft out of Alabama. Jones won a starting job out of training camp, and he has rewarded Green’s early faith with an outstanding rookie campaign.
The Pels’ defensive priority in this one will be to try and slow down Murray. The Spurs’ first-time All-Star guard came to within 0.2 rebounds of averaging a triple-double in four seasons with the Pelicans during the regular season.
If the Pelicans win Wednesday’s game, it will be their first home victory over the Spurs so far this season in three attempts.
San Antonio Spurs vs. New Orleans Pelicans NBA Game Pick
The Spurs were not a good defensive team for most of the year, but they come into this one playing their best defense of the year at the perfect time. San Antonio is yielding 112.4 points per 100 possessions since March 15, the sixth-best mark in the NBA. New Orleans (116.1) is middle of the pack in that department over the same stretch.
Given their improved defensive play and Ingram’s questionable status, I think the Spurs are a good value to cover the 5.5-point margin in this one. The Pels have struggled against the Spurs all year long, and Popovich is infinitely more experienced than Green in these kinds of situations. They may not win it, but San Antonio should be able to keep this game competitive.
San Antonio Spurs vs. New Orleans Pelicans Betting Recap
- Moneyline: Spurs +185, Pelicans -215
- Point Spread: Spurs +5.5 (-110), Pelicans -5.5 (-110)
- Over/Under: Over 227 points (-110), Under 227 points (-110)
- Pick: San Antonio Spurs +5.5 (-110)