Pelicans score against Spurs, takeaway: CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram lead New Orleans to showdown with Clippers

The New Orleans Pelicans are one win away from clinching a Western Conference playoff berth after beating the San Antonio Spurs, 113-103, Wednesday night in the 9-on-10 game of the LA playoff tournament. NBA.

CJ McCollum finished the win with a game-high 32 points, seven assists and six rebounds while Brandon Ingram and Jonas Valanciunas both eclipsed the board by 20 points to lead the charge on New Orleans’ offensive side. San Antonio also had a balanced score on the offensive end, with six players scoring in double figures, and made a big run in the second half to cut the lead to just six points. In the end, however, this was not enough for them to overcome the deficit they faced.

With the win, New Orleans advances to face the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night in a playoff game for the right to be the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference and meet the top-seeded Phoenix Suns. in the first round.

Here are three takeaways, along with a recap of our live game updates.

1. Bucket-fetching pelicans

The playoffs often come down to individual shots, and the Pelicans have two of the best in the business in CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram. On Wednesday, Ingram did a lot of his damage heading to the rim and coming to the foul line early, then McCollum got to work, displaying a seemingly endless array of backsteps and stuttering steps. At times they were each out of control – by one person at least – and it shows just how dynamic this team can be on the attacking side. I mean, what are you supposed to do with this?

They cooled off a bit in the second half as San Antonio made their way, but immediately got back to work when the team needed them to seal the win. McCollum and Ingram are huge reasons New Orleans will be tough against the Clippers on Friday, and maybe more so if they can advance to the first round against the Phoenix Suns. Then you look at next season, with a healthy Zion Williamson back in the fold, and suddenly the Pelicans look like a strong contender out West.

2. Not on the grass

If only the postseason awards ballots were due a few days later, Herb Jones would certainly have won more votes for the All-Defense and All-Rookie teams. Already an NBA Twitter darling, the 23-year-old rookie showed off his unique defensive skills on the national stage Wednesday, making countless plays that only he seemingly could. Take, for example, this game where he lands a block, a steal and a dunk (which didn’t count because he was grounded beforehand) in seconds.

Jones has been integral to the Pelicans’ success this season, and that’s exactly why. In a postseason setting, not only can he guard the other team’s best perimeter players, but he’s also a defensive playmaker, picking up steals and blocks that lead to easy buckets at the other end. He’s also shot a respectable 34% from 3-point range this season and went 2-for-4 on Wednesday en route to 12 points, five rebounds, two blocks and two steals.

3. Pop’s last game?

Gregg Popovich has given no indication that he might retire, and we don’t expect him to either, but it’s still possible the 73-year-old coaching legend could make a career out of it before next season. He won a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics and became the NBA’s all-time leader earlier this season, so it doesn’t look like there’s much left for Pop to do. That being said, he seemed to enjoy coaching a younger team in rebuilding mode, and has been a lot more, let’s just say, nice, with the media in recent years.

Whether Popovich retires next week or 20 years from now, he will remain the greatest NBA coach of all time and one of the greatest coaches of all time, in any sport. If it was his last game, his Spurs crumbled with the trademark effort and grace he imbued in all of his teams.

After the loss, Popovich was asked if he would return for his 27th season, and he answered in true Pop style.

“That question is inappropriate,” he said.