New Orleans – Wherever CJ McCollum goes to New Orleans now, he says he feels the hype in the city about pelicans.
On Wednesday, in front of a sold-out crowd at Smoothie King Center, which continued as the Pelicans exited with a 113-103 victory over the San Antonio Spurs to advance to the NBA Championship.
“This is the start of something definitely special,” McCollum said. “You see the energy. I feel the energy. My mom is in town; I have some family in town. When we go out to eat, you can feel the town is as excited about basketball as it should be.” [be]. There is a lot of talent here. We are playing the game the right way. There will be a lot of victories in our future.”
McCollum got off to a quick start against Tottenham, scoring 27 points in the first half, including 19 in the second quarter when he was a perfect 7 of 7 from the field.
Pelicans coach Willie Green said McCollum was a steady, calming force for the team through the night.
“We just got the ball, play after play, score goal after goal,” Green said. “The rest of the guys started beating CJ. He was in these moments. He played on the big stage. It’s no coincidence that he goes out and plays the game he played.”
McCollum finished 32 points, the highest in the game.
“I understand the scale of this game,” McCollum said. “Tottenham will always be running at some point. They are well trained. They execute. They have a lot of great players who can shoot and score. When you get a chance to get two numbers, you have to put the pedal on the metal and try to be aggressive.”
McCollum also understood how and when to engage others.
Brandon Ingram has missed the previous three games and 13 of the last 18 with a hamstring problem. So the Pelicans got the ball off Ingram early, and he had 11 of 27 points in the first quarter.
Pelicans quarterback Jonas Valanciunas scored five points at the end of the first half, and New Orleans supplied him with the ball in the third quarter, when he scored 12 of 22.
“I keep talking to them when I need to,” McCollum said when asked how he was a calming factor in the game. “They understand what we’re trying to do.” “We need to get the ball out and slow down the game. Get the ball to JV. Tell BI to get into the middle and not just 3. Be aggressive and attack the basket. We got the bonus early. And then I pick my points. I try to be more aggressive in the playoffs. And I’m trying to go down a little more.”
The Pelicans will play at the Los Angeles Clippers Friday night for a chance to advance to the playoffs as the eighth seed and face the top seed Phoenix Suns.
If the Pelicans advance, they would become the fourth team in NBA history to run into the playoffs after starting 1-12 or worse and the first since the Suns achieved that feat in 1996-97.
“It’s fun,” said Ingram. “It’s exciting. I don’t think I’ve been to Smoothie King before as there were so many people here.” “It shows how far we’ve come, starting from 1-12. Getting a chance to do the playoffs is a blessing. We just have to keep going, and keep our focus. But I loved the energy in the Smoothie King Center.”
While this was the first time McCollum had encountered noise levels as a pelican, he remembered the arena had been as noisy as those in the past — particularly when the Pelicans swept the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round of the 2018 playoffs.
He hopes Wednesday night’s effort will be an indication of what the team will be able to do going forward.
“I’m so happy,” McCollum said. “I’m excited.” “Obviously, we have to try and take care of the business in LA, but when we come back here I look forward to seeing more sales. We will reward them with a high level of play, a high level of energy. We will leave everything there on the field.”