Without leading scorers, Pelicans hope to get back on track vs. Spurs

Less than two weeks ago, the New Orleans Pelicans were riding a seven-game winning streak and sitting atop the Western Conference.

Now they’re on a four-game losing streak that has dropped them into third.

The losing streak started with two games against Utah, followed by losses to Phoenix and Milwaukee, all of whom have winning records.

New Orleans will try to get back on track when it plays the visiting San Antonio Spurs, who have the second-worst record in the West, on Thursday night.

“It’s a part of the growing process,” Pelicans guard CJ McCollum said. “You’re going to go through times where everything is going well during the season. There’s also going to be times where you’re struggling with losing games, and you have to stop the bleeding.

“I think we have a unique opportunity with some games coming up to get back on the right track and really see what we’re made of. I’m looking forward to the challenge. There are so many games left in the season. It’s just about ebbs and flows and consistently playing the right way, as well as trying to build winning habits.”

The losing streak started with a decisive loss at Utah, but the last three games have been much more competitive. New Orleans lost to the Jazz in overtime in the second game, held a 24-point lead against the Suns before faltering and whittled an 18-point fourth-quarter deficit to three before falling to Milwaukee on Monday.

“I love our fight,” Pelicans head coach Willie Green said. “I told the guys that I love our energy, our fight, our effort. We just have to sustain it for 48 minutes.”

Green said after practice Wednesday that second-leading scorer Brandon Ingram, who has missed the last 11 games because of a bruised toe, will miss the game against the Spurs and at least one more.

Leading scorer Zion Williamson will also be out after entering health and safety protocol on Wednesday.

The Spurs have won four of their last six games after losing 11 straight. They routed the Rockets 124-105 on Monday night in Houston, despite playing without leading scorer Keldon Johnson, who was sidelined by a bruised back. In his absence, Devin Vassell scored 26 points

“We had like six or seven guys play well on both ends of the court,” Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said. “We showed a lot more aggression the second half and that’s what it takes to win an NBA game.”

San Antonio trailed by two points at halftime, but outscored Houston 32-14 in the third quarter. It then scored the first five points of the fourth quarter to expand the lead to 97-76. The Spurs led 120-94 later in the period.

“Pop was getting to us,” Vassell said. “But we needed it. It brought the juice back out of us. We picked it up a lot on the defensive end, guys in transition, and started being more aggressive.”

The Pelicans have defeated the Spurs twice in San Antonio — 129-110 on Nov. 23 and 117-99 on Dec. 2. The final meeting of the season will come March 21 in New Orleans.

–Field Level Media