The New Orleans Pelicans and the Sacramento Kings began the NBA restart with hopes of reaching the Western Conference playoffs.
However, those hopes are gone for both teams as they prepare to meet in their second-to-last game Tuesday in the NBA's "bubble" near Orlando.
The Pelicans (30-40) are2-4 in the restart and were eliminated on Sunday when they lost to San Antonio and Portland defeated Philadelphia. The Kings (29-41) were also eliminated by Portland's victory before they lost to the Rockets later Sunday, dropping them to 1-5 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
With nothing at stake Tuesday, the teams will err on the side of holding out players with any ailment. As a result, New Orleans' Zion Williamson (knee), Brandon Ingram (knee) and Jrue Holiday (elbow) won't play, nor will Sacramento's De'Aaron Fox (shoulder), Richaun Holmes (hip) and Marvin Bagley III (foot). The Kings list Kent Bazemore (calf) as questionable.
The Pelicans fell behind the Spurs 14-3 in less than three minutes and played uphill virtually the entire game.
"There is no explanation," New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry said. "We did need to approach it like it was a Game 7. The only way you're going to beat a team like that, you have to be ready to play, you've got to be willing to execute, and you've got to be able to protect the basketball."
San Antonio scored 30 points off 20 turnovers by New Orleans, which has committed 17-plus turnovers in five of its six games since the restart.
"We just didn't have any competitive spirit to start the game," said guard JJ Redick, who came off the bench to lead New Orleans with 31 points and eight 3-pointers. "We've had a couple of games like that down here, for whatever reason. Our group eventually picked it back up and whittled that lead down to a one-possession game."
The Pelicans got within three points twice in the fourth quarter, but the Spurs pulled away and finished with 41 points in the final period.
The Kings had 49- and 40-point quarters when they beat the Pelicans 140-125 last Thursday for their only victory in the bubble.
Like the Pelicans, Sacramento forward Harrison Barnes cited inadequate effort as a factor in his team's poor play during the restart.
"It doesn't matter what scheme we have," Barnes said. "It doesn't matter what game plan we have. If we don't have the effort needed to execute, it doesn't matter.
"I think it starts with individual accountability just in terms of the effort that we're putting out there on a consistent basis in order to win in this league. And, to be consistent, you have to do that every single night."
Barnes said as a veteran who played in the NBA Finals with the Golden States Warriors that he needs to be one of the leaders who set the tone for the team's effort. That will be even more challenging in the final two games now that the playoffs are out of reach.
"I know the energy and effort that it takes to win games, and when you don't bring that, you lose," he said. "I definitely take responsibility there, but I think as a group we have to learn that you can't just turn it on."
Sacramento shot 53.8 percent from the floor against the Pelicans, including 16 of 33 on 3-point attempts. But that was an aberration.
"That's why as coaches we're constantly harping on becoming good at all the other things," Kings coach Luke Walton said. "When we get to start winning consistently, it's not going to be because we're hot every night. (It will be because) we don't foul, we're disciplined on defense, we contain our man on the ball."
This is the 14th consecutive season that the Kings have missed the playoffs, which is one short of the Clippers' NBA record streak.
--Field Level Media