Spurs (46-13) vs. Pelicans (24-37)
Tipoff: 8:30 p.m., Friday, New Orleans
Spurs’ last game: Beat Indiana Pacers 100-99, Wednesday, AT&T Center
Pelicans’ last game: Beat Detroit Pistons 109-86, Wednesday, New Orleans
Season series: Spurs lead 2-1
Last meeting: Pelicans 119, Spurs 103, Jan. 27, New Orleans
Spurs’ last 10 games: 8-2, won last five
Pelicans’ last 10 games: 5-5, won last game
Notable: Tony Parker, who missed Wednesday’s game with a quad contusion, is expected to start Friday night.
SAN ANTONIO – After struggling in a controversial win over the Indiana Pacers in their first game back at the AT&T Center in nearly a month Wednesday, the Spurs aren’t expecting for things to get much easier in New Orleans on Friday night.
Kawhi Leonard hit a fade-away jumper with 2.4 seconds left to lift the Silver and Black to a 100-99 victory against the Pacers, but the NBA admitted Thursday that the basket should not have counted because officials missed a traveling call on Leonard.
Tarnished or not, the victory moved the Spurs (46-13) to within three games of Golden State (50-11) for the top spot in the Western Conference. The Warriors and the Silver and Black have the two best records in the league.
Wednesday night’s game was the Spurs’ first at the AT&T Center since they beat Denver on Feb. 4. They started their annual rodeo road trip in Memphis two days later, playing eight consecutive road games.
“You’re usually a little sluggish,” center Pau Gasol said, when asked what it’s like to play at home after a long road trip. “It’s the first game back home after a while, after being on the road for so long. You’re going to be a little sloppy. You’re going to make some mistakes, more than usual. At the end, the important thing is that we found a way to win against a team that is playing well.”
San Antonio, which has won five in a row, will get its first look at the Pelicans since they obtained five-time All-Star forward DeMarcus Cousins in a trade with Sacramento. Cousins and Anthony Davis, a four-time All-Star, are expected to give New Orleans one of the best frontcourt tandems in the NBA after they adapt to each other’s games.
“Cousins and Davis on the same team poses a big threat in the paint, for sure,” Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said. “Besides, they have some good players all around.”
The Pelicans are 0-3 in games Cousins has played. They rolled to a 109-86 home victory over Detroit on Wednesday without Cousins, who had to sit out one game after picking up his 18th technical foul of the season in the team’s previous contest.
Cousins has averaged 23.3 points and 12.7 rebounds in his three games with the Pelicans, but he’s also picked up 14 fouls. Davis is averaging 28.2 points, 11.9 rebounds and 2.4 blocks.
The Spurs are 2-1 against New Orleans this season, but the Pelicans won their last meeting 119-103 on Jan. 27 in the Big Easy. San Antonio had a five-game winning streak going into that game, too. Jrue Holiday paced the Pelicans with 23 points and 11 assists, and Davis tied a career high with 22 rebounds.
Terrence Jones scored 21 points and Solomon Hill, who nailed 5 of 7 shots from beyond the arc, added 16 points for the Pelicans. New Orleans converted 10 of 20 long-distance shots in the second half, and made 13 of 30 for the game.
“It’s a tough team to play against, a tough city,” Ginobili said. “We kind of struggle against them. They find a way to complicate us. Jrue Holiday has had some great games against us. Good one. Looking forward to it.”
The Spurs have beaten the Pelicans twice at the AT&T Center this season, 98-79 on Oct. 29 and 113-100 on Dec. 18. San Antonio also has won five of the last six games in the series.
Leonard had a team-high 23 points and added six rebounds and six assists in the loss to New Orleans on Jan. 27. LaMarcus Aldridge had a double-double, finishing with 14 points and 14 rebounds.
The night was a memorable one for Spurs rookie Davis Bertans, who came off the bench and scored 17 points in only 19 minutes. He hit 6 of 9 shots, including a career-high 5 of 7 from the 3-point line.
Next up for the Spurs after Friday’s game: vs. Minnesota, 8 p.m., Saturday, AT&T Center
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