December 25, 2014

Back to playing outstanding defensively now that Kawhi Leonard has returned, the San Antonio Spurs are also getting some big production from the All-Star at the other end.

Now they might be facing banged-up nemesis Anthony Davis at an opportune time.

While the New Orleans Pelicans hope to spark a run to the postseason, the already playoff-bound Spurs will try to end their longest current road skid versus an opponent Thursday night.

San Antonio easily leads the league with 92.3 points allowed per game, but it surrendered 109.7 over a three-game stretch from Feb. 18-21 when Leonard was sidelined with a calf injury.

With the reigning Defensive Player of the Year back, the Spurs have returned to their stingy ways by holding opponents to an average of 86.3 points in their past four games. They limited Detroit to 39.7 percent shooting in Thursday's 97-81 home victory.

Leonard also led the way offensively with 27 points and San Antonio (51-9) joined Golden State as the only teams to clinch spots in the postseason so far. Leonard has found his stroke, averaging 27.7 points on 62 percent shooting over his last three games.

''It's not about (making the playoffs)," said LaMarcus Aldridge, who scored 23. "This is my first year here, but even for me it's not about that. I think we have a bigger picture in mind.''

The Spurs will go after their seventh straight win as they hit the road for the ninth time in 10 games, though their recent visits to New Orleans haven't gone so well. They've dropped their last three at the Smoothie King Center following a 104-90 loss there on Nov. 20.

Ryan Anderson finished with 30 points while making 6 of 11 from 3-point range in that contest and Davis contributed 20 points and 18 rebounds. Davis has given the mighty Spurs all they can handle, averaging 23.5 and 12.9 over eight consecutive double-doubles in the series.

The All-Star big man, however, didn't seem like himself Wednesday after returning from a one-game absence due to a sprained toe. He had 12 points on 5-of-13 shooting in a 100-95 loss at Houston that dropped the Pelicans six games behind the eighth-place Rockets with 23 left.

Norris Cole finished with 21 points as New Orleans held Houston to 3-of-34 shooting from 3-point range but committed 23 turnovers and sent the Rockets to the free-throw line 38 times.

"We come out here after every game and we talk about 'We're still in the playoffs,'" coach Alvin Gentry said. "No, we're not. We're not."

The Spurs, who have dropped four of the past six meetings with the Pelicans (23-36), shot just 3 for 14 from 3-point range and went to the foul line nine times against the Pistons.

Aldridge will try to stay hot after totaling 49 points and 26 rebounds in his last two games. He's averaged 25.6 points in his past seven versus New Orleans dating to his time with Portland.

Leonard has scored a combined 48 points on 54.1 percent shooting in this season's series.

San Antonio received some good news Wednesday when Manu Ginobili said he's pain free and will return next week after missing a month following testicle surgery. The guard took a knee directly to the groin from Anderson in a 110-97 home win over New Orleans on Feb. 3.

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