Spurs help play-off chances, top Pelicans, Zion 122-113
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Florida (AP):
Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs came to the NBA's restart bubble looking to develop their young talent.
The play-offs might be a nice bonus.
For Zion Williamson, postseason hopes might have to wait until next year.
DeMar DeRozan scored 27 points, Rudy Gay added 19 off the bench and the Spurs wasted much of a 20-point, second-half lead before hanging on to beat New Orleans 122-113 yesterday and hand a big blow to the Pelicans' play-off hopes.
The Spurs - bidding to become the first team in NBA history to make 23 consecutive play-off appearances - moved past idle Phoenix into 10th place in the West, percentage points behind Portland for the No. 9 spot that comes with a berth in the play-in series next weekend.
"I think it'd be huge," said Popovich, the Spurs' coach. "If we're able to be in that ninth spot, that's quite a victory and it says a lot about how this young group has come together with three of the starters out. I'm already thrilled with how they played, and it'd be really fantastic if we could get that."
Dejounte Murray scored 18 for the Spurs. Derrick White added 16 before leaving early in the third quarter with a bruised knee.
Season-high eight 3-pointers
JJ Redick scored 31 points with a season-high eight 3-pointers for New Orleans, which got 25 from Williamson and 17 from Brandon Ingram. Portland plays later Sunday and a win by the Trail Blazers over Philadelphia would eliminate New Orleans from postseason consideration.
"We just didn't have any competitive spirit to start the game," Redick said. "We were flat. We weren't talking. That's what it comes down to."
Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry called it a Game 7-type game beforehand but stayed with the plan of playing Williamson in short bursts. Williamson started the first, second and third quarters, coming out around the midway point of each.
In the fourth, Gentry took Williamson out with 6:53 left, putting him back in for the last-ditch try about two minutes later. But the Pelicans never got the lead back.
"We played 44 games without Zion so it's really kind of hard to put a stamp on exactly what the season is," Gentry said. "But I like the young players that we have. I think going forward we're going to have an opportunity to be a good team and compete at a real high level."
The Spurs led 69-49 with 9:54 left in the third quarter, a key moment - because that was when White left with the knee problem.
And the game changed in an instant.
Williamson scored the next eight points by himself, kick-starting what became a 28-12 run by the Pelicans to end the quarter.
"We didn't expect to blow them out," Gay said. "We don't expect to blow anybody out."
A dunk by Jaxson Hayes got New Orleans within 10. Nickeil Alexander-Walker - who hadn't made a shot in the Pelicans' last 15 quarters and had only two 3-pointers since mid-January - connected from beyond the arc late in the third, and New Orleans was suddenly within 81-77 going into the fourth.