Tonight, the New Orleans Pelicans welcome the San Antonio Spurs, winner plays Clippers for 8th seed, loser goes home. This season has been a rocky one for both teams. The Pelicans have missed their 21 year old all star, Zion Williamson, for what ended up being the season. The Spurs are not the classic Pop Spurs. They don’t have a group of 4 Hall of Famers anymore! However, they got 1 really talented all star, Dejounte Murray. Murray has been more of an only hope to San Antonio than Obi One Kenobi! The Pelicans have Brandon Ingram (probable) as their star. Both teams have a pretty similar supporting cast. So which team will win. Will it be the 5.5 point favorite Pelicans? Or the experienced coached Spurs? Well, I’ll tell you who will win this division battle, in both teams most important game of the season!
The Pelicans will win this game in a blow out if they lock down Dejounte Murray. Even though Jakob Poeltl has gave me a lot of game enjoyment (poeltl.dunk.town), he can’t cary a team when Murray’s off. And he is one of their top options. Poeltl and the rest of the team fits better when Murray’s on, a similar impact to another 1st time all star, Darius Garland and his connection with the Cavaliers. When he’s on, they’re on. When he’s off, it’s not fun to be a Cavs fan! But Murray has that same impact. If the Pelicans can shut down Murray, it forces supporting cast players Keldon Johnson, Devin Vassell, Lonnie Walker IV, Josh Richardson, etc. How will the Pelicans stop him though. That’s the problem. The Pelicans don’t have that perimeter defender to guard him, unless Larry Nance Jr. has a career game.
For the Pelicans, they have those scoring options if Ingram is off from Johnson, Vassell and Murray’s perimeter defense (which is very likely with Ingram’s slight injury). CJ McCollum has proven to be clutch on offense down the stretch in the playoffs with his elite scoring ability. However, his defensive is often times an issue. However, Jonas Valanciunas covers that up. The Pelicans could not have made a better trade this offseason to pick Valanciunas over Steven Adams. He’s just a better version of Adams. He is a very reliable offensive player in the paint, is very good on defense and gets rebounds. He averaged 18 points and 11 rebounds this season. Hot take: Valanciunas is the 2nd best player on the Pelicans (with Zion hurt), just below Brandon Ingram!
I think the Pelicans will win this game because they have more talent. However, Murray will not get shut down and this game will be close. However, the Pelicans overall better talent is going to make the difference. McCollum will not be great though, since defenders like Joshua Primo, Johnson, etc. will do a great job taking away his offense. But Poeltl not being able to guard Valanciunas will be a huge difference maker. Murray will be the best player on the floor but the Pelicans will be the best team on the floor, giving them a chance to make the playoffs for the first time since 2018!
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