CJ McCollum, Pelicans Beat Dejounte Murray, Spurs in 2022 NBA Play-In Tournament

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIApril 14, 2022

New Orleans Pelicans guard CJ McCollum (3) reacts with the crowd after scoring a 3-point basket in the first half of an NBA play-in basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs in New Orleans, Wednesday, April 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

CJ McCollum's 27 first-half points helped keep the New Orleans Pelicans' postseason hopes alive en route to a 113-103 win over the visiting San Antonio Spurs at the Smoothie King Center in the Western Conference play-in tournament Wednesday.


WHAT A HALF FOR CJ MCCOLLUM 😱<br><br>-27 PTS<br>-10/12 FG<br><br>Pelicans lead 61-50 at the break. <a href="https://t.co/CiHTzZdhGl">pic.twitter.com/CiHTzZdhGl</a>

McCollum, who dropped 32 points overall on 12-of-23 shooting, scored 19 in the second quarter to give the Pels a 61-50 halftime lead.

New Orleans led by six or more for the remainder of the game, thanks to great shooting (54.3 percent from the field) and a dominant effort on the glass (53-34 advantage).

Jonas Valanciunas complemented McCollum with a 22-point, 14-rebound night. Brandon Ingram, who missed the last three games, added 27 points in his return from a right hamstring injury.

It was an off-night for the Spurs, who were trying to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2018-19. Devin Vassell led San Antonio with 23 points. Dejounte Murray had 16 points on 5-of-19 shooting.

The Spurs have now missed the playoffs for three straight years after making them in 22 consecutive seasons under head coach Gregg Popovich.

As for the Pels, they are trying to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2017-18.

They are on the doorstep of doing so despite missing All-Star forward Zion Williamson, who sat out all of this season with a broken fifth metatarsal in his right foot.


Notable Performances

Pelicans G CJ McCollum: 32 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds

Pelicans F Brandon Ingram: 27 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists

Pelicans C Jonas Valanciunas: 22 points, 14 rebounds, 2 blocks

Spurs F Devin Vassell: 23 points, 3 assists

Spurs PG Dejounte Murray: 16 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists

Spurs C Jakob Poeltl: 16 points, 9 rebounds, 2 steals


CJ McCollum Puts Pels on Playoff Doorstep

McCollum's second-quarter performance was the key to the Pels' win. He was near-unstoppable en route to a 19-point effort.

Of note, he hit this long-range two for a 30-25 lead.

ESPN @espn

"That dude's bag has a bag." 🎒<br><br>CJ is smooooooth. <a href="https://t.co/FptLCqZv7L">pic.twitter.com/FptLCqZv7L</a>

McCollum was feeling it everywhere on the court, nailing a big three to start a 14-4 run that ended the first half and gave New Orleans an 11-point leading heading into halftime.

New Orleans Pelicans @PelicansNBA

calm, cool and collected. that's <a href="https://twitter.com/CJMcCollum?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@CJMcCollum</a> for ya.<br><br>📺: <a href="https://twitter.com/ESPNNBA?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@ESPNNBA</a><br>📻: <a href="https://twitter.com/ESPNRadioNOLA?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@ESPNRadioNOLA</a> <a href="https://t.co/ASGFcCDhyf">pic.twitter.com/ASGFcCDhyf</a>

The former Lehigh star scored 10 of those 14 points, with the other four courtesy of Jose Alvarado, who hit this three:

New Orleans Pelicans @PelicansNBA

.<a href="https://twitter.com/AlvaradoJose15?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@AlvaradoJose15</a> 3/3 3PM 🔥🔥🔥<br><br>HE CAN SHOOT<br><br>📺: <a href="https://twitter.com/ESPNNBA?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@ESPNNBA</a><br>📻: <a href="https://twitter.com/ESPNRadioNOLA?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@ESPNRadioNOLA</a> <a href="https://t.co/KFhwURnkJY">pic.twitter.com/KFhwURnkJY</a>


The Pels' three-point barrage put the Spurs in a hole, and this one gave New Orleans its first double-digit lead of the game:

New Orleans Pelicans @PelicansNBA

IT IS OFFICIALLY LIT FAM<br><br>📺: <a href="https://twitter.com/ESPNNBA?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@ESPNNBA</a><br>📻: <a href="https://twitter.com/ESPNRadioNOLA?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@ESPNRadioNOLA</a> <a href="https://t.co/nx0W3MhjZK">pic.twitter.com/nx0W3MhjZK</a>


All told, McCollum finished 10-of-12 from the field after two quarters. He was particularly excellent off the dribble.

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

CJ McCollum went 7-8 off the dribble in the 1st half, hitting as many such shots as the Spurs entire team <br>(7-25) <a href="https://t.co/51xIEtENyX">pic.twitter.com/51xIEtENyX</a>

If not for the Spurs' bench, this one could have been over at half:

SportsCenter @SportsCenter

CJ McCollum outscored the Spurs starters 27-25 in the first half 😳 <a href="https://t.co/hcjrNuSk9X">pic.twitter.com/hcjrNuSk9X</a>

He cooled off a bit in the second half but still went to work, nailing this three for the Pels' 92-74 lead.

New Orleans Pelicans @PelicansNBA

🚀🚀🚀 <a href="https://twitter.com/CJMcCollum?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@CJMcCollum</a> <br><br>📺: <a href="https://twitter.com/ESPNNBA?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@ESPNNBA</a><br>📻: <a href="https://twitter.com/ESPNRadioNOLA?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@ESPNRadioNOLA</a> <a href="https://t.co/rEFgle3Pl5">pic.twitter.com/rEFgle3Pl5</a>

The Spurs cut the Pels' lead down to six in the fourth quarter because of New Orleans' offensive drought, but McCollum's first-half effort gave the Pels more than enough cushion to advance.


Spurs' Second-Half Surge Falls Just Short

San Antonio trailed by 21 points early in the fourth quarter after a Naji Marshall jumper. A Pelicans' win appeared to be a foregone conclusion at that point, but San Antonio had other ideas.

The Spurs proceeded to go on a 16-1 run to slice the Pels' lead to 97-91 with 5:18 remaining. The Pels went over six minutes of game time without scoring a field goal, and their lone point was courtesy of a Valanciunas free throw.

All the Spurs played a part in the rally, with Jakob Poeltl notably excelling on both ends. He took a Murray feed and cut through the lane for a layup to cut the deficit to 96-79.

San Antonio Spurs @spurs

Pounding the rock 💪 <a href="https://t.co/O3LRByaW8X">pic.twitter.com/O3LRByaW8X</a>

Josh Richardson's three got the Spurs' deficit down to single digits:

San Antonio Spurs @spurs

JRich FOR THREEEEEEE! <a href="https://t.co/CAtScMxedk">pic.twitter.com/CAtScMxedk</a>

San Antonio was able to chip away at the lead, thanks in part because of great defense. Poeltl had two steals and this huge block on Valanciunas to keep the Pels' advantage at nine.

San Antonio Spurs @spurs

❌❌❌ <a href="https://t.co/FeeT8N7XSI">https://t.co/FeeT8N7XSI</a> <a href="https://t.co/8nWfb0gEhT">pic.twitter.com/8nWfb0gEhT</a>

San Antonio got the Pels' lead down to six after a Vassell three, but the Pels' offense finally broke through at the end. Ingram keyed a 6-0 run with a pair of buckets, and he added four more points in the final couple of minutes to help keep San Antonio at arm's length.

Credit to San Antonio for fighting to the finish, but New Orleans will be moving on.

What's Next?

New Orleans will now visit the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday at 10 p.m. ET at Crypto.com Arena. The winner of that contest will advance to a first-round series against the top-seeded Phoenix Suns beginning Sunday at 9 p.m. at Footprint Center.