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Pelicans should be locked and loaded for matchup against Spurs

Could a CJ McCollum bounceback be in store?!?

New Orleans Pelicans New Player Portraits Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images

The New Orleans Pelicans will welcome the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday evening.

Expect for The Blender to be rocking.

The Spurs have dominated matchups from an all-time perspective (19-51) and it’s been a particularly lopsided affair of late. The Pelicans have beaten Gregg Popovich’s squad just twice in their past 10 meetings, including a 112-97 loss earlier this season.

In that Dec. 12 matchup, the Pelicans were dismantled in the fourth quarter by a 15-29 margin, with the offense largely to blame.

“They just turned it up,” Willie Green said in postgame. “We had a discussion in the huddle about the fourth quarter: our ability to execute. On the first play, we get a good look, but a guy gets behind us and they kick it ahead. Layup. And it just kind of trickled down from there. It’s another area where we just have to be better. Our guys, for three quarters, went out and played a pretty good game all around. Then in the fourth quarter, things just got away from us.”

That fourth quarter was u-g-l-y for the Pelicans: 5-22 FGA (22.7%), 1-7 3PTA (14.3%), 4-7 FTA (57.1%) and one assist versus six turnovers.

Although the Pelicans still maintain a hold of the 10th spot in the Western Conference, the final seed in the Play-In tournament, their lead is precariously thin. Three teams sit within two games of New Orleans — including San Antonio.

The Pelicans should be plenty revved up to knock off their nemesis, but they’ll have another advantage thanks to the schedule makers. The Spurs, who have won just seven times in their previous 24 games, will be on the second night of a back-to-back after beating the Hawks 136-121 in Atlanta last night.

Another reason why the energy should be elevated inside the Smoothie King Center, CJ McCollum will be looking to bounce back from a subpar showing.

One of the newest Pelicans made his debut a few nights ago in the 112-97 loss to the Miami Heat, but he wasn’t in top form, notching 15 points on 6-21 shooting from the field. That performance was completely understandable though.

After a whirlwind of activity, which included not getting to sleep until 2:30 a.m. on the day of the game against the Heat, McCollum was naturally preoccupied with a million other things. He must have felt emotionally and physically drained after getting little rest and of needing to say goodbye to so many friends and fans back in Portland.

It’s not hard to read between the lines especially after reading his penned article, “Dear Portland,” on The Players’ Tribune.

One thing that should stand out since the trade was announced this past Tuesday, CJ has consistently been adamant about wanting to be New Orleans, including in that wonderful piece. (Please hit the link and read it for yourself if you haven’t already!)

I wanted to go to New Orleans. That’s the thing that really takes away the sting. Just purely as a pure hooper, I’m so excited to get to go play with Zion and B.I. and Valančiūnas and all those young guys. I really feel like I bring a lot to the table in terms of professionalism and preparation, because in nine years I’ve seen everything in this league. I’ve gotten DNPs, I’ve dropped 50, I’ve been doubted, I’ve been hyped, I’ve been in Game 7s, I’ve hit game winners, I’ve missed game winners. When you’re young in this league, you don’t know what you don’t know — take it from an old head who used to walk around the mall all day. There’s a lot of wisdom I think I can bring to the table in New Orleans and I’m really excited just as a human being to be moving to the city to catch some football games at the Superdome. (My son is still being raised a Browns fan, though, I’m sorry.)

One has to believe that a more rested McCollum, who was able to go through his first New Orleans practice yesterday, significantly raises the odds of victory.

Can anyone think of a better opponent than the Spurs for CJ to get his first win in a Pelicans uniform? Not me.

Let’s Geaux Pels!

Who: New Orleans Pelicans (22-33) vs San Antonio Spurs (21-35)

When: February 12, 2022, 6:00 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.