Western Conference play-in preview: Spurs-Pelicans

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Welcome to the preview of the 2022 NBA Western Conference play-in tournament. For updates throughout the day follow me on Twitter, or check out The Edge daily at 4 p.m. ET / 1 p.m. PT.

All game lines via VSiN NBA Odds page.

No. 10 San Antonio Spurs at No. 9 New Orleans Pelicans (-5.5, 229.5)

Regular season series: Spurs won 3-1

Personally, there is no team I find more fascinating in these play-in games than the New Orleans Pelicans. Willie Green’s adjusted starting lineup has been a statistical wonder for New Orleans, and it is the main reason why this team now has a chance to make it into the postseason. With CJ McCollum, Brandon Ingram, Herb Jones, Jaxson Hayes and Jonas Valanciunas on the floor, the Pelicans are + 7.1 per 100 possessions with a 123.5 offensive rating. That group is a rebounding machine as well, grabbing 34.6% of their missed shots while averaging a staggering 36.3 points per 100 missed field goals.

Since the All-Star break, New Orleans is 7-2 SU/6-3 ATS when that lineup starts the game .. the issue is that lineup has only been available for nine of the last 23 games. Ingram missed 10 consecutive games with a hamstring injury that has seemingly lingered and forced him to miss the final three games of the regular season. He needs to be healthy if the Pelicans are going to win this game, let alone make it to the postseason, as their defense is still a work in progress.

With that dynamic starting group on the floor, New Orleans still allows 116.3 points per 100 possessions. Where they really struggle is half-court settings, where opponents score 102.3 points per 100 plays, according to Cleaning The Glass. Despite the size on the floor there is no real rim protection out there for the Pelicans, and opponents have taken advantage by burning McCollum and Ingram with dribble-penetration. With those five on the floor, the Pelicans have allowed opponents to take 34.7% of their shots within four feet and shoot 74.1% -- two staggering figures.

Dejounte Murray and the Spurs can take advantage in those half-court settings. With Murray on the floor, 78.5% of San Antonio’s plays came in the half court and they averaged 96.7 points per 100 plays. That’s a perfectly average rating for half-court offense but given how poorly New Orleans has defended in those situations one would assume the Spurs’ floor on offense is raised. Where San Antonio works against itself is its penchant for taking mid-range attempts – 36.5% of their attempts with Murray on the floor – as opposed to forcing the issue at the rim where the Pelicans are weakest.

At the end of the day, rebounding will likely decide this battle. As previously mentioned, New Orleans wants to dominate the offensive glass and San Antonio has had issues with its defensive rebounding this season. The Spurs finished 24th in defensive rebounding rate (71.1%) and 18th in overall rebounding rate (49.4%). However, they were eighth in offensive rebounding (28.1%), which is somewhat perplexing. Most of that stems from Jakob Poeltl, who is incredible when it comes to grabbing missed shots, but only ranks in the 60th percentile of centers in individual defensive rebounding rate. If Poeltl gives a better effort on the defensive glass and can take away the second chance opportunities from New Orleans. then San Antonio is live to move on.

Betting Perspective

I believe the Spurs have the ability to cover this number and I grabbed 5.5 to buy a bit off a future I have on the Pelicans to make the postseason, but this still a line that is higher than it should be, especially with the Ingram injury taken into consideration.

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