Hard to believe that neither San Antonio's Tim Duncan, perhaps the greatest power forward in NBA history (sorry he's not a center), nor New Orleans' Anthony Davis, probably the best young player in the league right now, was named to the Western Conference All-Star team. Both could still make it as injury replacements, but Davis' exclusion was the worst snub of them all. With the All-Star Game in New Orleans, it will be a shock if he doesn't find his way on the team. We do get to see the past and future collide on Monday night when New Orleans hosts San Antonio. The Spurs opened as 4.5-point road favorites with a total of 195.5 on NBA odds.
Hello Rodeo, Goodbye Spurs
In many ways the Spurs are the most predictable team in the NBA. If they play a club with a losing record, the Spurs will win. Good teams? Lose. San Antonio had lost five of seven -- to quality teams Portland, Oklahoma City, Miami, Houston and Chicago -- before beating visiting Sacramento 95-93 on Saturday night as a 10.5-point favorite for sports bettors.
Duncan had 23 points and 17 rebounds, and even though this is arguably the most "professional" team in sports it probably was a needed boost of confidence. That's because San Antonio is now off on its annual "Rodeo Road Trip." Monday's game is the first of nine straight away, the longest road swing for any team this season. They like their rodeos in Texas.
San Antonio (22-25 ATS, 26-20-1 O/U at sportsbooks) will be without sixth man Manu Ginobili for the entirety of the trip. He has missed the past two games when an MRI revealed on Wednesday that he had a strained left hamstring. The Spurs avoided potential disaster when a Friday MRI on Tony Parker, the Spurs' lone All-Star for now, to check for a hernia came back negative. Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green remain out with injuries, although Green could get back this week. Center Tiago Splitter played Saturday for the first time since Jan. 4 due to a shoulder injury. He had four rebounds and two points in 17 minutes. San Antonio was so thinned out by injury that it had to start recently signed Shannon Brown against the Kings.
New Orleans (21-23-2 ATS, 22-23-1 O/U at sportsbooks) is playing as well as it has all season, having won five of seven. It beat visiting Chicago 88-79 on Saturday, and Davis was tremendous with 24 points, eight rebounds and six blocks. He's the first player since Patrick Ewing in November 1990 with at least 22 points and six blocks in three straight games. If you held a draft right now of all the NBA players, Davis might go third after LeBron James and Kevin Durant. Davis had missed the previous game, a loss to Minnesota, with a finger injury. Only one other Pelican even reached double-figure points against Chicago, Tyreke Evans with 11. It was the team's best defensive effort of the season.
The Pelicans remain without their big offseason trade acquisition, guard Jrue Holiday. He hasn't played since Jan. 8 due to a leg injury and doesn't appear close to returning. That trade with the 76ers for Holiday is not looking good right now as not only did New Orleans give up Nerlens Noel -- a Davis clone the Pelicans didn't really need -- but also a Top-5 protected lottery pick in this year's draft. So Philly is hoping that New Orleans loses just enough to finish with the sixth-worst record in the NBA and then not move up in the lottery. Pelicans forward Ryan Anderson also remains out long-term.
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Second of four meetings. On Nov. 24, the Spurs were 9.5-point home favorites for sports bettors and won 112-93. It wasn't even that close as the Spurs led by 32 at one point with Ginobili having 16 points to lead seven San Antonio players in double figures. Davis had 10 points and six rebounds but was minus-20.
On Jan. 13 in New Orleans, the Spurs were 7-point favorites on NBA odds and won 101-95. At the time it was the Pelicans' sixth straight loss after losing Anderson. Davis had 22 points and 11 rebounds, while Parker had 27 points and six assists.NBA picks: New Orleans +4.5 and the under. The Spurs have won nine of their past 10 in the series but haven't covered in their past six at the Pelicans. The under is 4-1 in San Antonio's past five games and 4-0 in New Orleans' past four.