New Orleans, missing stars Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram, blew the doors off of San Antonio’s defense with a 37-17 opening salvo to earn ab east win. The Spurs were undone by the Pelicans’ hot-shooting start and its own lost shooting touch and sloppy execution. Though they made two big runs in the fourth quarter, each one was canceled immediately by the singular scoring dominance by CJ McCollum. A much-anticipated breakout game from Jeremy Sochan was not nearly enough to offset McCollum’s production.
McCollum (40 points, 9 assists, and 8 rebounds) and Jonas Valunciunas (16 points and 10 rebounds) led a dominant performance by the Pelicans starters, while the team made over 90% of its free throws.
The Spurs, missing young stud Keldon Johnson and with forgettable efforts from Devin Vassell (10 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals) and their top two centers, received career-high scoring from the 19-year old Sochan (23 points, 9 rebounds, and 6 assists) with nominal support outside of Tre Jones (19 points).
- The Dan Weiss / Matt Bonner / Michelle Beadle is a nice change-of-pace broadcasting trio. Their banter feels like a group of friends at Buffalo Wild Wings watching banks of TVs.
- Has there ever been a time where Denver and Memphis sat at the top of the Western Conference this late in the season? 2011?
- The Pelicans’ coaches quarter-zip pullovers are really crisp.
- Jeremy’s Journey: Midway through the opening frame, Sochan caught a pass deep in the paint, absorbed a body blow, and recovered to lay it in gently. He just has a natural feel for things.
- If Doug McDermott can’t make shots, there’s no reason for him to be out there.
- Welp, the timeout entertainment was very groovy - jazz, soulful R&B, Christmas-themed,
- Sequence of the Game #1: Partway through the first, Vassell nabbed a steal and found a streaking Jones far downcourt for a nice lay-up.
- Sequence of the Game #2: After the first-quarter avalanche, Jones nailed a wing three and then drew an offensive foul on Jaxson Hayes at the other end.
- Shaqtin-a-Fool Sequence: In an inexplicable minute of action, this happened: Pelicans turnover (bad pass - Najee Marshall), San Antonio turnover (bad pass - Sochan), Pelicans turnover (lost dribble - Herb Jones), San Antonio turnover (bad pass - Vassell), Pelicans turnover (steps - Willy Hermangomez). Michelle Beadle yelled “what the turn happened there?”
- McCollum outscored the Spurs 9-2 from the tip. Jakob Poeltl was whistled for his second foul, which necessitated an early Zach Collins sighting sooner. Doug McDermott bricked a runner and airballed his next shot, while Collins also airballed a hook, while picking up a second foul late in the frame. A half-dozen offensive rebounds by San Antonio may have staved off an even worse blowout. In a season full of breakdowns, it appeared that the Pelicans got anything they truly wanted to offensively. Malaki Branham willed home a pair of threes, but New Orleans left the period up 20.
- The Spurs made a brief 6-0 run at the start of the second. Poeltl picked up his third foul, which brought a Charles Bassey sighting. After a comedy of errors ensued (see above sequence), Sochan swished a three to break the 43-26 stalemate and paired that with two other buckets. However, every basket San Antonio scored was answered immediately by the hosts. Sochan continued to accumulate points while practicing his free throw form, but New Orleans kept its comfortable advantage. Collins picked up his third foul, too. A 7-0 Herb Jones run put New Orleans up 19 at the half.
- Coming out of the break, Sochan swished another wing three and found a cutting Romeo Langford for a bucket. Veterans McCollum and Valunciunas answered in response. Vassell got his second field goal, but New Orleans remained two to three touchdowns ahead. Not to be outdone by the centers, Langford picked up his fifth foul midway through the period. Stanley Johnson hit a corner three, but New Orleans ran their lead out to as much as 23.
- A baby hook from Johnson, a three from McDermott, and a Johnson and-1 capped a 10-0 San Antonio run. McCollum wiped out any hope with a dozen points of his own. What looked like a certain brick from McCollum bounced high in the air and softly fell right through the net. Johnson paired a lovely assist to Jones with a difficult finish for an and-1 to shave the deficit to eight. A Vassell pull-up was answered by a McCollum fadeaway. McCollum stripped Jones and hit a three in transition to ice the game away.
For the Pelicans fan’s perspective, please visit The Bird Writes.
San Antonio concludes its road SEGABABA with Paolo Banchero and the Magic in Orlando tomorrow night at 6:00 PM CDT.