San Antonio Spurs vs. New Orleans Pelicans
Line: New Orleans -5.5
Where: Smoothie King Center
When: Wednesday, 4/13 at 9:30 p.m. ET
San Antonio never had a winning record at any point this season, but it has a chance to advance to the Western Conference playoffs with a win over New Orleans in Wednesday’s play-in tournament.
The Spurs used a late surge to secure the tenth and final spot in the postseason field, while New Orleans bounced back from a 1-12 start to the season with a solid second half. These teams met four times in the regular season, with San Antonio winning three of those games.
Oddsmakers opened New Orleans as a 5.5-point favorite, but the early betting action pushed the line down to -5 as of Tuesday afternoon. Wednesday night’s total opened at 230.5 and has seen significant movement down to 227.5 or 227, depending on the sportsbook.
San Antonio might have lost three straight games to close the regular season, but it has covered the spread in seven consecutive games. The Spurs have also covered in eight of their last nine games against New Orleans.
They have turned up their defensive intensity, ranked fourth in defensive rating over their past 11 games. It has been a pleasant turnaround for a defense that is No. 23 overall this season in points allowed per game (113.0).
The Spurs have been better on the other end of the court, as they are the eighth-best scoring offense in the NBA (113.2 ppg). Point guard Dejounte Murray leads the way with 21.1 points, 9.2 assists and 8.3 rebounds per game. Murray returned from a five-game absence on Sunday, scoring 17 points in a loss at Dallas.
Small forward Keldon Johnson is scoring 17.0 points and grabbing 6.1 rebounds, while Derrick White is chipping in 14.4 points. Johnson averaged 21.8 points in his final 10 games, providing a secondary scoring option behind Murray. San Antonio needs a strong performance from center Jakob Poeltl, who averages 13.5 points and 9.3 rebounds.
He is going to be matched up against New Orleans big man Jonas Valenciunas, who is averaging a double-double with 17.8 points and 11.4 rebounds. The Pelicans have plenty of offensive firepower in the form of Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum, the latter of which scored 32 and 36 points in his last two games against the Spurs. However, the Pelicans are No. 21 in points per game (109.3).
Ingram has missed the last three games due to a hamstring injury and is listed as ‘questionable’ to play on Wednesday. The Pelicans lost to Golden State and Memphis by a combined 48 points in their final two games of the regular season. They are 5-3 in their eight games since losing to San Antonio on March 26, covering the spread in half of those contests.
Valanciunas has been dealing with an ankle injury, but he is expected to play in this game. The Pelicans have been a solid defensive team, ranked No. 13 in points allowed per game (110.3).
They have gone ‘under’ the total in nine of their last 13 games, while San Antonio has gone ‘under’ in 12 of its last 18 games. These teams have cashed the ‘under’ in seven of their last eight head-to-head meetings.
The pick: San Antonio +5.5
San Antonio has been rounding into playoff form for several weeks, although you wouldn’t know it based on the three-game losing streak to close the season. The Spurs have been a covering machine of late though, going unbeaten ATS in their last seven outings. New Orleans struggled without Ingram down the stretch, suffering a pair of blowout losses. Ingram and Valanciunas are both dealing with injuries heading into this contest, which is not what you want against a strong defensive team. Murray and Johnson are an underrated scoring duo—it helps that they are led by one of the best coaches in the game. San Antonio has dominated this series over the past two seasons, so it is no surprise that the money is coming in on the Spurs.