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McCollum’s fourth-quarter outburst propels Pelicans to exhilarating 113-106 victory over Mavericks

CJ scored 16 of his 32 points in consecutive fashion during the final frame

Dallas Mavericks v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

For much of the second half, it appeared that the New Orleans Pelicans were going to ride a dominant 35-19 second quarter performance to victory over the Dallas Mavericks.

A 16-point halftime advantage changed very little over the next 15:24 of the clock, with the Pelicans holding a sizable 94-76 lead nearly a third of the way through the fourth quarter.

Then Dallas’ offense woke up, despite Luka Doncic being forced from the game with a left thigh strain late in the third quarter.

Jaden Hardy first threw down a monster dunk over Jaxson Hayes. That was followed by cold Mavericks shooters suddenly finding the range from deep — they combined to make seven 3-pointers during the final 7:55 of the game.

An 18-point lead was trimmed to three for New Orleans in the blink of an eye and more than four minutes remained in regulation. A positive outcome was very much in doubt. Fortunately, the Pelicans’ last-standing star caught fire when Dallas was in the midst of a 41-point fourth quarter.

With a right ankle sprain knocking Brandon Ingram out of the game just before halftime, a lot of hope shifted onto CJ McCollum. He rose to the occasion, delivering repeatedly in the fourth by scoring 16 consecutive points to keep the Pelicans ahead of the Mavericks in crunch time.

McCollum finished with 32 points, five rebounds and five assists. Four of his six made 3-pointers came in that decisive fourth quarter.

During McCollum’s postgame interview on ESPN, Trey Murphy gave a shout-out to a smaller splint on CJ’s right thumb.

“I’ve been missing a lot the last two months with this thumb,” McCollum told Cassidy Hubbarth. “I got a smaller splint put on today, so I’m progressing well.”

McCollum was not the only instrumental Pelican in the win.

Trey Murphy made his presence felt with three 3s, but two first quarter dunks ignited the crowd after Dallas had jumped out to an early lead.

“I kind of surveyed, so I paused a little bit,” Murphy said. “I looked and Dwight Powell didn’t step up, For like the past month and a half, every single big has stepped up outside of the lane. I finally saw a big that didn’t. So I had to go dunk it.”

In addition to his three treys, Murphy added 16 points, six rebounds and two blocks.

Herb Jones also played a significant role. His individual defensive brilliance is always a given, as it was again on this night, but his aggressiveness led to a number of scoring cuts into the lane, four important offensive rebounds and perhaps played some part in Doncic’s night finishing prematurely.

Right before Luka came out of the game for a final time, Jones had two drives in transition. Doncic’s primary defensive assignment was Jones. With Herb pushing the pace, Doncic couldn’t continue to limp through the contest.

“Herb has that ability to play in the open floor, in transition, especially with his ability to guard and get steals, deflections and rebounds,” Green said. “When he gets it, we want him playing fast, making smart decisions. Those are things that we’re working on, but he definitely learned a bit of that from Josh {Hart}. I know they used to work together on that a bit when Josh was here.”

It’s fantastic to hear the coaching staff is working behind the scenes with Jones to take advantage of his ball-handling in the open floor. This should not only help the Pelicans play at a desired faster pace, it should help him leave a bigger offensive footprint by leaning into his strengths.

With both Jonas Valanciunas and Willy Hernangomez getting into early foul trouble, Jaxson Hayes received a golden opportunity. He took full advantage of it and was a big reason why New Orleans crushed Dallas in the second quarter.

Hayes, who finished with 14 points on perfect 6-for-6 shooting from the field, is going to be an important figure while Larry Nance Jr. remains sidelined.

“He gives us a similar look defensively as Larry because he’s able to switch one through five,” Murphy said. “Offensively, he’s a lob threat, so basically he’s helped me a lot because those little guys, they have to tag in order to stop his threat at the rim. I’ve been able to get a few more open shots because of that.”

Dyson Daniels (four points, six rebounds, six assists), Naji Marshall (nine points, six rebounds, six assists) and Josh Richardson (six points, three rebounds, two 3s) also filled up the box score off the bench.

The Pelicans began the home stand off on the right track Wednesday, posting a quality win over a Western Conference opponent to keep pace with the Los Angeles Lakers in the play-in seedings. However, given that they’re only two games out of fifth place, and at the same time, three teams sit just a game behind them and the Lakers in the standings, the finish to this season should have a multitude of fan bases on the edge of their seats.

So moving forward, all eyes will be on Ingram and his right ankle as Zion Williamson continues to mend from a hamstring strain. Expect an update on Ingram in the next day or two, but let’s hope Jones was prophetic about BI being good.

“It’s always tough to see your brother leave with injury,” Jones said. “I haven’t talked to him about it. Knowing BI, I asked him, ‘was he alright?’ I knew he was going to tell me he was good, but I haven’t really found out anything about the injury.”

Ingram isn’t known for returning quickly from injury, but the fact that he was pushing hard to return to this game, maybe the absence will be short — if he is to miss any time at all.

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.