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McCollum, Snell should give Pelicans timely boost against Heat

CJ McCollum will make his debut today!

New Orleans Pelicans v Miami Heat Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

Five in a row.

The New Orleans Pelicans play the Miami Heat tonight looking to win their fifth game in a row.

If you’ve been a loyal follower of The Bird Writes, you know that the Pelicans haven’t won five games in a row since the final stages of the 2017-18 season.

Since then, they have won four straight games only five times, with two of those, including the current streak, coming this season.

That seems nearly impossible. Especially when you consider that the Rockets, Kings, and Thunder have all done it at least once in the last two years.

What does seem possible is the Pelicans finally breaking through that small barrier as they continue to strengthen their position for the Play-In, or maybe more.

Yes, the Heat lead the Eastern Conference with a 35-20 record and come into the Smoothie King Center on a three-game win streak of their own.

However, the Heat are finishing out a six-game road trip and Thursday night’s game will be Miami’s sixth in 10 days. The Heat are a less than impressive 17-14 on the road.

The last time these two teams played, things were very different in New Orleans. The Pels loss in Miami left them at 2-14. Since then, New Orleans is 20-18. The Pelicans’ defense has improved from a 111.1 rating in November to 105.7 this month.

Oh, and the Pelicans didn’t have CJ McCollum.

Both McCollum and Tony Snell will make their debuts against Miami after Tuesday’s massive trade which saw Josh Hart, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, among others head to Portland.

“We’re really excited to be able to have a player of this caliber,” David Griffin said during the Bally Sports broadcast of the Rockets-Pelicans game. “A scorer, a shooter of this caliber, a playmaker who’s been in big games with post-season success behind them is important to us.”

The atmosphere in the Smoothie King Center should generate playoff-like electricity.

New Orleans has certainly upgraded what has been the NBA’s worst backcourt this season. McCollum brings 20.5 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 4.5 assists to New Orleans, but should add so much more to the Pels.

Willie Green called McCollum a pro when discussing him after Tuesday’s emotional win over the Houston Rockets.

“I think it’s going to elevate our group. CJ has seen it all. He’s been in the league for a decade, (he’s) been to a conference championship. He’s won at extremely high levels. He’s a pro, and we need guys like him to elevate on the court. So we’re excited, I’m excited, he’s excited.”

The Pelicans have needed “pros” on this roster for years.

McCollum will settle this team down in tight situations, because he’s seen them. He will improve the offense as a shot-maker at all three levels and as a shot creator in pick and roll situations or off the dribble.

CJ shoots 39.4 percent from three in catch and shoot situations on four attempts per game. Nickeil Alexander Walker and Josh Hart combined for 33 percent shooting on seven attempts.

He also seems reinvigorated by an opportunity to compete for the playoffs as the Trail Blazers rebuild.

If Snell can come in and just be a solid defender while he rediscovers his career 39 percent shooting from deep, he could prove to be a valuable asset as well.

Five in a row.

It sounds so nice.

Let’s go Pels.

Who: New Orleans Pelicans (21-32) vs Miami Heat (35-20)

When: February 10, 2022, 6:30 p.m.

Where to watch: Bally Sports New Orleans, NBA League Pass

Where to listen: ESPN 100.3 FM

For more Pelicans talk, subscribe to The Bird Calls podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @OlehKosel.