SAN ANTONIO — New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry said all the Pelicans can do at this point is play through the adversity they are facing, as if playing the San Antonio Spurs on the road wasn’t tough enough.
Five key players are injured and the Pelicans were playing their third game in five nights. Oh, and there is the matter of franchise player Anthony Davis saying he no longer wants to be with the franchise.
All things considered, losing 113-108 to the Spurs on Saturday night wasn’t so bad.
“We never give up,” Pelicans point guard Jrue Holiday said. “I feel like people think because we’re shorthanded or whatever may be, that we’re going to get blown out, but we haven’t had many blowouts this year. That’s because we’re always going to fight until there’s zero on the clock, no matter who’s playing.”
Frank Jackson had a career-high 25 points and five others scored in double figures as New Orleans nearly upset San Antonio.
The Spurs emptied their bench with a 106-84 lead but were forced to put their starters back in after the Pelicans went on a 24-5 run. Jackson’s layup pulled New Orleans within 111-108 with 38 seconds remaining. After San Antonio guard DeMar DeRozan missed a floater, New Orleans’ Tim Frazier had a 3-pointer circle the rim and fall out with 4.4 seconds left. DeRozan closed the game out with a pair of free throws.
Frazier finished with nine points and was 1 for 4 on 3-pointers.
Gentry said the plan was for Frazier to maintain his dribble until LaMarcus Aldridge closed and then he was supposed to drive past the Spurs center for a two-point basket that would have pulled the Pelicans within a point. Instead, Frazier up-faked and spun around Rudy Gay and nearly made a miraculous shot.
Still, Gentry was happy with the team’s rally.
“I love the effort that we played with,” he said. “I loved the fact that we didn’t give up. I just love that we competed until the end, but we’ve got to try to avoid these big leads that we have to overcome. Playing so hard to get back close to even that it’s tough to get over the hump.”
Holiday and Wesley Johnson added 15 points each for New Orleans. Johnson had 11 points in the fourth quarter in setting a season high.
Jackson added six points in the fourth, finishing the game 10 for 20 from the field. Jackson’s previous career high was 19 points, which he scored against Cleveland on Jan. 9.
The Spurs opened the game on a 19-6 run, and the only thing that slowed them down was a pair of wily varmints.
A bat began hovering above the court three minutes into the game, causing officials to delay the game for about 1½ minutes. It was the second straight home game delayed by a pest problem. The Spurs’ game Thursday against Phoenix on Thursday was delayed by 3½ minutes as three bats buzzed the court.
Stadium workers were able to shoo the bats into the rafters against the Suns, but the Spurs were better prepared for the intrusion against the Pelicans.
A stadium official walked onto the court with a handheld net but missed the bat on his first attempt. Almost on cue, The Coyote, the Spurs’ mascot, charged onto the court dressed in a Batman costume with a net. The Coyote missed his first swipe at the bat but then dove near the scorer’s table and caught the bat in his net to huge cheers from Spurs players and fans. The stadium worker placed the bat into a towel and took him from the court.
Once the bat was removed, the real trap began in the fourth quarter when the Pelicans nearly stole the game.
Instead, the Spurs successfully completed a four-game homestand and won their fifth straight despite a late scare.
“With all the guys out for New Orleans, they’ve been playing well,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. “They beat Houston and had an opportunity to beat Denver the other night. They’ve really pulled together and played well, played hard. So, it was a good win for us.”
LaMarcus Aldridge led San Antonio with 25 points and 14 rebounds. Rudy Gay and Marco Belinelli added 17 points each.