(AP) — The New Orleans Pelicans and the San Antonio Spurs both bounced back from difficult losses to win on Sunday.
They’ll try to build off that success when they meet Tuesday night in New Orleans.
On Friday the Pelicans (34-37) led the host Rockets by 15 points with less than 10 minutes remaining but lost 114-112 when rookie Jabari Smith Jr. made a 3-pointer with less than a second remaining.
When the teams met again in Houston two nights later, New Orleans was much more consistent, taking the lead in the first quarter, leading by double digits for most of the game and turning back repeated pushes by the Rockets to prevail 117-107.
“To respond after that loss,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said, “I thought was big-time.”
The win kept the Pelicans in the middle of the logjam for spots in the Western Conference play-in tournament.
“We have to realize if we want to go to the postseason, we’ve got to play better,” said center Jonas Valanciunas, who had 21 points and 12 rebounds Sunday. “It’s as simple as that. We have to win some games.”
The Pelicans led the Rockets by as many as 20 points Sunday and saw the lead shrink to eight points with more than six minutes remaining but this time kept the home team at a safe distance.
“We just went through it a couple nights before, and I looked at our guys in the huddle and said, ‘We have an opportunity to win the game, but we’ve got to go do it,'” Green said. “We’ve got to take care of the ball; we’ve got to get good looks; we have to get stops. To their credit, they went out and did it.”
The Spurs had lost consecutive overtime games in which they held double-digit leads, including losing a 29-point third-quarter lead in a 126-120 loss to Memphis on Friday.
But on Sunday, San Antonio (19-52) erased a 24-point deficit against the visiting Atlanta Hawks to win 126-118.
“A tale of two cities this week,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “The competitiveness and physicality was great. I think (the Hawks) scored 35 (in the second half). When you play that competitive and physically, good things usually happen.”
San Antonio outscored Atlanta 65-35 in the second half, thanks in part to the Spurs shooting 58 percent from the field after halftime.
“There’s been times this year where we keep fighting and keep fighting and keep fighting,” said Keldon Johnson, who matched Devin Vassell’s team-high 29 points. “It kind of felt good to get down big and come back and fight and get a win.”
The Spurs made 8 of 12 3-pointers in the third quarter and outscored the Hawks 39-20 to get within 103-100 at the end of the period.
“Everybody played big today,” Vassell said. “We just kept the faith that we were going to come back and we did.”
New Orleans is trying to complete a sweep of the season series, having won in San Antonio, 129-110 on Nov. 23 and 117-99 on Dec. 2, and 126-117 on Dec. 22 in New Orleans.
–Field Level Media