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Pelicans out to hand Spurs 10th straight loss

The New Orleans Pelicans and host San Antonio Spurs, teams heading in opposite directions on the NBA escalator, will square off Friday for the second time in nine days.

The Pelicans (13-8) are going up, winning four of their past five games, including a 126-108 victory at home over Toronto on Wednesday.

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Much of New Orleans’ ascendance has been credited to the solid play and overall impact of Zion Williamson, who scored a season-high 33 points on 12-of-15 shooting from the floor and took 10 rebounds in the victory over Toronto.

Trey Murphy III added 26 points and Jonas Valanciunas also had a double-double of 16 points and 13 rebounds in Wednesday’s win. Dyson Daniels had 14 points, Herbert Jones racked up 12 and Larry Nance Jr. hit for 10 for New Orleans, which played without starters Brandon Ingram (toe) and CJ McCollum (return to play reconditioning).

New Orleans led by 27 points at the break after its highest-scoring half of the season and by as many as 31 in the second half before Toronto got within 11 midway through the fourth quarter. The Pelicans shrugged off the comeback attempt via an 8-0 that started with two dunks by Williamson.

“I’ll continue to say: It’s really about our team,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said. “Z (Williamson) is a big part of that, but it’s all of our guys collectively being on the same page. guarding the ball, then finishing possessions with rebounds.”

New Orleans is five games over .500 for the first time since the 2017-18 and continues to excel while dealing with injuries and absences.

“I give Coach praise all the time on it,” Williamson said. “At the beginning of the season, the beginning of training camp, the conditioning test wasn’t nothing physical. During training camp, it was just stay ready. If you stay ready, you won’t have to get ready.”

The Spurs (6-16) are on the down ramp, losing 119-111 in Oklahoma City on Wednesday to drop their ninth straight game. San Antonio went 1-14 in November, its worst month in team history.

“I’ve been doing this a long time,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “It’s all the same stuff, whether you win or lose. It’s the same things you talk about constantly. Whether you win 20 in a row or lose 20 in a row, you are teaching and working on the same exact stuff.”

On Wednesday, the Spurs followed their highest-scoring half of the season (77 points) with their lowest-scoring (34 points). San Antonio led by 20 in the third quarter and by 96-88 heading into the fourth but shot 28 percent in the second half.

“The purpose we had in the first half — it just dissipated in the second half,” Popovich said. “We’ve had a lot of good halves or 2 1/2 quarters and all that, but rarely have we put four quarters of fundamental, sound defense and basketball together.”

Devin Vassell led the Spurs with 25 points. Keldon Johnson added 19 points, Tre Jones 15, Romeo Langford 14 and Keita Bates-Diop 11.

New Orleans manhandled the Spurs 129-110 in San Antonio on Nov. 23 with Williamson scoring a then-season-high 32 points.

–Field Level Media

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