NEW ORLEANS – Wherever CJ McCollum goes in New Orleans right now, he says he feels a buzz in the city about the Pelicans.
On Wednesday, in front of a sold-out crowd at the Smoothie King Centre, the team was tipped off as the Pelicans walked away with a 113-103 win over the San Antonio Spurs to advance to the NBA play-ins.
“This is the beginning of something special,” McCollum said. “You feel the energy. You feel the energy. My mother is in the city; I have some families in town. When we go out to eat, you can feel the city getting excited about basketball, like them. should do [be]. There is a lot of talent here. We are playing the game the right way. There will be many victories in our future. “
McCollum started quickly against Spurs, scoring 27 points in the first half, including 19 in the second as he was the perfect 7/7 appearances.
Pelicans coach Willie Green said McCollum was a steady and calm force for the team throughout the night.
“We just gave him the ball, and he played the whole game, scored,” Green said. “The rest of the people started to hate CJ. He was in these moments. He was playing on the big stage. It’s no coincidence that he went out and played the game he had.”
McCollum finished with a game-high 32.
“I understand the importance of this game,” McCollum said. “Spurs are always on the upswing at some point. They’re well coached. They execute. They’ve got a lot of great players who can shoot and score. When you have a double-digit chance, you have a chance to win. to put the pedal to the metal and try and be aggressive.”
McCollum also understands how and when to get others involved.
Brandon Ingram had missed the previous three games and 13 of the past 18 with a right hamstring problem. So the Pelicans got the ball from Ingram early, and he had 11 of 27 points in the first half.
Pelicans center Jonas Valanciunas had 5 points after halftime, and New Orleans gave him the ball in the third inning, when he went 12 of his 22.
“Just keep talking to them when I need to. Understand what we’re trying to accomplish,” McCollum said when asked how he was such a calm factor in the game. “We needed to get the ball out and slow the game. Give the ball to JV. Say BI in the middle of the field and don’t settle in 3. Be aggressive and attack the basket. We got the bonus early. And then Then I choose my position. I try to be more aggressive in the knockouts, try to go downhill a little bit more.”
The Pelicans will play at the LA Clippers Friday night for a chance to advance to the knockout stages as the eighth seed and face the top seeded Phoenix Suns.
If the Pelicans move forward, they will become the fourth team in NBA history to reach the knockout stages after starting 1-12 or worse, and the first team since the Suns to score the feat in 1996- 97.
“It’s fun. It’s interesting. I don’t think I’ve been to Smoothie King, where there’s a lot of people here,” Ingram said. “It shows how far we have come, starting from 1-12. To have a chance to reach the knockout round is a blessing. We just have to keep going, keep our focus. But I love the energy at Smoothie King Center.”
While it’s the first time McCollum has experienced this level of noise as a Pelican, he still remembers how noisy the arena has been in the past – especially when the Pelicans wiped out the Portland Trail Blazers of the Pelican. He’s in the first round of the 2018 playoffs.
He hopes that Wednesday night’s effort is an indication of what the team will be able to do in the future.
“I’m happy about that. I’m excited,” McCollum said. “Obviously, we have to try and take care of the business in LA, but when we get back here I’m looking forward to seeing more sold-out. And we’re going to reward them in a way. class play, high energy. We’ll leave it all there on the court.”
https://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/33735879/cj-mccollum-predicts-lot-winning-our-future-leading-new-orleans-pelicans-play-victory-san-antonio-spurs CJ McCollum predicts ‘lots of wins in our future’ after leading New Orleans Pelicans to win over San Antonio Spurs