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CJ McCollum regains shooting stroke, but Pelicans’ defense falters in 124-114 loss to Spurs

New Orleans just can’t beat San Antonio

San Antonio Spurs v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images

There’s good reason why Dejounte Murray is headed to the All-Star game later this month.

The New Orleans Pelicans fell 124-114 to the San Antonio Spurs in large part due to Murray being the most impactful player on the court. He finished with 31 points, 12 assists, seven rebounds and just one turnover.

The 31.7% three-point shooter even knocked down 2 of 4 triples.

Herbert Jones gave great effort, but he enjoyed little success in slowing down San Antonio’s fantastic point guard. Murray was just that good, hitting some ridiculous shots. To be fair, though, a lot of Pelicans had trouble staying in front of their assignments.

The Spurs torched the Pelicans for 37 points in the first quarter and then 39 points in the third. New Orleans was often beat off the dribble without good help laying in wait. San Antonio seemingly tallied a handful of And-1s in the third frame alone.

This is just one of several adjustments that are necessary to fully integrate a new big-minute rotation piece for Willie Green.

Case in point, CJ McCollum bounced back in a big way offensively after his 15-point debut a few nights ago. He was flat out awesome, posting a line of 36 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and three triples. However, the typically low-error prone star turned the ball over six times.

“It’s just a continuous evaluation of where we are,” Green said in postgame. “You look at the two games, but at the same time, have an awareness that it’s a huge adjustment for everybody. It’s an adjustment for CJ (McCollum). It’s an adjustment for all of his teammates. So, we’ll do it together. We’ll get back to the drawing board, watch some film, get in practice, and continue to work. I continue to say it, I believe in this group and we’ll get there.”

One felt the Pelicans were in for a long night after the Spurs raced out to a 7-0 start. Brandon Ingram did his best to keep the Pelicans close, scoring the team’s first five points, but the flow felt like it was a “your turn, my turn” kind of night between BI and CJ.

Ingram finished with 22 points on 9 of 19 shooting. For a third straight game, he failed to dish out more than two assists. Prior to this stretch, Ingram had posted back to back 12-assist contests.

The New Orleans Pelicans clearly aren’t in sync, but there are some players who remain mired in deep struggle.

Devonte’ Graham didn’t register a point, missing all six of his field goals. He didn’t even attempt a single shot in the second half.

Graham has really struggled shooting the ball since the start of the new year, and if he’s not providing any offense, why continue to hurt the defense with starting he and McCollum together in the backcourt?

Garrett Temple failed to score as well. He’s made two or more field goals just twice since January 11.

Jonas Valanciunas had a double-double (17 points, 12 rebounds), and Herb Jones had 13 points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals.

Jose Alvarado, Gary Clark and Naji Marshall all scored six points apiece off the bench.

The last Play-In tournament spot is completely up for grabs. Coupled with a 23-point come-from-behind victory for the Trail Blazers over the Knicks, the Pelicans loss knocks them into 11th in the West behind Portland. The Spurs sit half a game behind New Orleans, with Sacramento perched only a full game behind.

New Orleans has three home contests next week (Raptors on Monday, Grizzlies on Tuesday and Mavericks on Thursday) before the All-Star week. Are there any Ws sitting there for the Pelicans? At this point, fans are probably hoping to just see one.

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