The San Antonio Spurs play at home for the first time in 18 days when they host the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday at the ATT Center. But thanks to the continuing impact of COVID, it's up in the air which Spurs players will see the court in this matchup.
Saturday's game was supposed to be a homecoming for the Spurs after their annual Rodeo Road Trip, which this season was scheduled to include seven games over a two-and-half-week period against mostly Eastern Conference teams.
Instead, four of those contests were postponed because of positive COVID tests by a handful of the Spurs' players, with Wednesday's game in Oklahoma City the team's first since Feb. 14.
A cobbled-together lineup of usual starters, reserves and D-League players fell to the Thunder 102-99 in San Antonio's return to action, with Dejounte Murray scoring 27 points to lead the Spurs. Patty Mills added 15, Lonnie Walker IV had 12 and LaMarcus Aldridge hit for 11 points.
DeMar DeRozan, San Antonio's leading scorer, sat out for personal reasons, while Keldon Johnson, Derrick White, Rudy Gay, Devin Vassell, and Quinndary Witherspoon and were held out because of health and safety protocols. DeRozan could be back for Saturday's game.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said his team showed fight despite playing for the first time after the long quarantine and with unproven combinations.
"Those combinations on the court were such that they'd never seen them before," Popovich said. "I know they got tired down the stretch, that's the first game in what, nine or 10 days? The mistakes just added up."
Aldridge returned after missing six games due to hip soreness and came off the bench for the first time since the 2006-07 season, his rookie year.
"It's definitely a different task coming off the bench, having very few minutes to get loose and kind of find a rhythm," Aldridge said afterward. "I'm still figuring it out. It wasn't perfect tonight, and I don't think it's going to be perfect for a while."
The Pelicans head to the Alamo City on the heels of a 129-125 loss in Milwaukee on Thursday despite 34 points from Zion Williamson. The setback snapped a meager two-game win streak for New Orleans.
New Orleans had a 125-124 lead with 2:01 to play but didn't score in its final three possessions. The game ended with Brandon Ingram being whistled for a charge as time ran out.
"We got some really good looks down the stretch, passed up two good looks, I thought, but had some other good looks that could have gone down," New Orleans coach Stan Van Gundy said after the loss. "I don't think down the stretch that we were having trouble getting shots. We just didn't make them."
Ingram added 23 points in the defeat, with Lonzo Ball scoring 20, Eric Bledsoe hitting for 16, and Willy Hernangomez tallying 10 points off the bench. Stephen Adams led both teams with 13 rebounds.
"We have to get the defense right," Van Gundy added. "I know (we are) a really good offensive team. But we are just not able to count on our defense enough in the game. But a good fight from our guys."
The Pelicans beat the Spurs 98-95 in the teams' first matchup of the season, in New Orleans, on Dec. 27. San Antonio still owns a 48-19 overall edge on in the series between the two teams, including a 27-5 advantage in game played in San Antonio.
--Field Level Media