Pelicans 126, Spurs 117
Jazz 120, Wizards 112
What went down
The New Orleans Pelicans were playing without two of their main guys, Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram, when they faced the San Antonio Spurs today. Ingram is still nursing a toe injury while Williamson entered the league’s health and safety protocols.
The Pelicans needed to make up for the lost production from those two All-Star caliber players. Thankfully, the rest of the team stepped up, specifically CJ McCollum. The veteran guard erupted for a season-high 40 points, built on seven 3-pointers. He also flirted with a triple-double, hauling down eight rebounds and dishing out nine assists.
McCollum set the tone for the game, hitting three triples in the first quarter which allowed the team to jump out to a 20-point lead, 37-17. New Orleans was able to keep the Spurs at a safe distance for most of the game but San Antonio tried to steal the game to open the final period.
The Spurs went on a 10-0 run to open the fourth and were threatening to get back in the game. McCollum single-handedly quashed that run with three straight triples to put the game out of reach.
The Pelicans also got timely contributions from Jonas Valanciunas who has 16 points and 10 rebounds, as well as young guns Trey Murphy (15 points) and Herb Jones (12 points).
New Orleans is surging this season and the spotlight has been on guys like Williamson and Ingram, deservedly so. Credit is also being given to role players like Murphy, Jones, and Alvarado. Lost in the shuffle is McCollum.
Today, he reminded everyone that he’s a big part of the rise of the Pelicans.
CJ McCollum dropped a 40-piece and 7 threes in the Pelicans win 🔥— NBA (@NBA) December 23, 2022
7 3PM pic.twitter.com/JOERS8Ueue
It shouldn’t be forgotten that the Pelicans started their climb late last season. The catalyst for that was the acquisition of McCollum.
What he said
Will Hardy: really a tale of two halves in terms of our defense. I thought our defense was poor in the first half, and the guys buckled down and competed on that end in the second half— Tony Jones (@Tjonesonthenba) December 23, 2022
The Utah Jazz aren’t like any team that’s supposed to be tanking. Not only are they winning games, but they’re also doing it the right way.
Most young teams like the Jazz are focused on blowing teams out of the water with their explosive offense. But head coach Will Hardy is preaching defense. That’s the key for Utah to keep winning.
In today’s game, the Jazz gave up 39 points in the second quarter alone. They adjusted during the halftime break and only allowed 46 points the rest of the way. That’s what Hardy wants to see from this team if they want to keep surprising the rest of the league.
Did you see that?
Jordan Clarkson is making a habit out of making defenders look silly. He was in his bag today, scoring 23 points to help the Jazz pull out the win.
Check out his fake and floater:
Then there’s this bully-boy move over three Wizards: