Belinelli, Spurs top Pelicans 96-80; streak at 17
SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Spurs coach Gregg Popovich admitted he is getting antsy for a loss. He’ll have to wait.
Marco Belinelli scored 18 points and San Antonio never trailed after its opening possession, extending its winning streak to 17 games with a 96-80 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday night.
The Spurs once again used fluid passing and tireless player movement to overwhelm an opponent. San Antonio finished with 24 assists while going 37 for 78 from the field in snapping New Orleans’ five-game winning streak.
“They move around a lot, and run their sets hard,” Pelicans guard Brian Roberts said. “Whatever they’re running, they are moving constantly. It puts pressure on a defense to play 24 seconds worth.”
Roberts scored 18 points, Austin Rivers added 16 points, Tyreke Evans had 11 points and Al-Farouq Aminu had eight points and 10 rebounds for New Orleans (32-41).
Kawhi Leonard and Manu Ginobili scored 15 points each, Patty Mills added 13 and Tim Duncan had 12 points and eight rebounds.
San Antonio (57-16) extended its lead to 3½ games over Oklahoma City (53-19) for the league’s best record.
In addition to winning its last 17, the Spurs have won 20 of 21 and have not lost since falling 106-85 to the Phoenix Suns on Feb. 21.
“It is sweet to be a part of that,” Ginobili said. “It is not something that happens very often because it is a long spread of game, a month or two. Here or there you have a bad game or the opponent has a bad one, but a lot of things have combined for us to have this type of streak. We played really well and we are healthy.”
New Orleans was without Anthony Davis, its leading scorer and rebounder. Davis injured his left ankle 4 minutes into the Pelicans’ victory over Utah on Friday night.
“It’s a joint/soft tissue injury right now,” New Orleans coach Monty Williams said. “He did it in his normal routine. He’s listed as day to day. We’ll see how he feels tomorrow.”
Williams said the Pelicans would have had a tough task even with Davis and the Spurs showed why early.
“They jumped on us,” Evans said. “They just moved the ball hit shots and we couldn’t make a shot.”
San Antonio opened the game on a 23-6 run, with Belinelli picked up where he left off Friday night.
He was 4 for 5 on 3-pointers against New Orleans after going 6 for 9 on 3-pointers Friday while scoring a game-high 27 points in a 133-102 victory in Denver.
“He’s been really steady for us and he plays a great all-around game,” Popovich said.
Belinelli made his first two 3-pointers against the Pelicans after opening with a 15-foot jumper off an assist from Duncan.
Belinelli’s first 3-pointer with 6 minutes remaining in the first quarter gave San Antonio a 16-4 lead. The Spurs would never lead by less than 10 points the rest of the way.
After Alexis Ajinca hit a 17-foot jumper on the game’s opening possession, New Orleans did not score again until Greg Stiemsma’s dunk with 8:21 remaining in the first quarter. The three-minute drought was followed by another three-minute drought.
“We couldn’t finish in the paint tonight,” Williams said. “We were 18 for 48 in the paint. That’s a bad number for us. We’re a team that usually is high when it comes to points in the paint.”
Rivers’ layup with 30.9 seconds pulled New Orleans within 69-59 with 30.9 seconds left in the third quarter, but Belinelli hit back-to-back 3s to fuel a 12-3 run and San Antonio reasserted its control.
San Antonio travels to Indiana to play the Eastern Conference-leading Pacers on Monday.
NOTES: Three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson sat courtside during the game cheering the Spurs. Mickelson withdrew Saturday from the third round of the Valero Texas Open after injuring an oblique muscle. “I pulled a muscle on my downswing trying to hit the ball hard on the second hole (his 11th),” Mickelson said in a statement. “It just killed and it wouldn’t subside for 10 or 12 seconds.” ... Spurs W Danny Green (right foot inflammation) and Matt Bonner (right calf strain) both sat out the game. ... Roberts played 29 minutes after being listed as day to day with a left knee bone bruise.