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Pelicans look to regain early-season success vs. Spurs

The last time the New Orleans Pelicans hosted the San Antonio Spurs, things were going well for the home team.

The Pelicans used a strong defensive effort to prevail 98-95 in their home opener, but the defense has been mostly bad and the victories have been rare ever since.

New Orleans has won just three games in the month since that first meeting as it prepares to host the Spurs again Monday night.

"We've got a young team, but at the same time that's an excuse because we've proven we can win," guard Eric Bledsoe said. "We've got a bunch of talented players on this team."

The Pelicans completed a 1-5 road trip with a lethargic 120-110 loss at Minnesota on Saturday.

"I think what upsets me most about this one is we lost that game because Minnesota played a lot harder than we did, with a lot more enthusiasm and intensity than we did," coach Stan Van Gundy said. "They defended harder. They went to the boards harder. They ran harder. They cut harder. Our disposition didn't match theirs whatsoever. I think we got outworked. Across the board, we didn't put enough into that game."

The Timberwolves played without Karl-Anthony Towns, D'Angelo Russell and Juancho Hernangomez, but still had six players score in double figures as they won for just the second time in 13 games.

"Our formula," Van Gundy said, "is to defend, rebound and take care of the basketball. Tonight it was no, no and no."

It was a much better night for New Orleans when it last played San Antonio as three Pelicans had double-doubles.

Brandon Ingram had 28 points and 11 rebounds, Zion Williamson had 18 points and 11 rebounds and Josh Hart had 12 points and 10 rebounds. New Orleans held on when Bledsoe blocked DeMar DeRozan's 3-pointer in the final second.

But the Pelicans' defense has become a nightly liability, and they'll be facing a Spurs team that scored 73 points in the second half to defeat visiting Washington 121-101 on Sunday.

"Just trying to string a full 48 minutes together, which we haven't actually done yet," said Patty Mills, who scored 21 points to lead seven Spurs in double figures. "(We had) glimpses of that tonight for sure."

Dejounte Murray was questionable because of a sprained ankle that kept him out of the second half of a loss to Dallas on Friday, but returned and went on to have his second triple-double of the season with 11 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.

"It's just an ankle sprain so I amped up my treatment the last couple of days just to get back and help my team," Murray said.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was asked for his impression of how Murray played through the injury.

"Well, he had a triple-double," Popovich replied. "That's not bad."

San Antonio made 15 of 31 3-pointers.

Nine Spurs played more than 20 minutes as their depth wore down a Wizards team that hadn't played since Jan. 11 and was still short-handed because of the NBA's COVID-19 protocols.

--Field Level Media