NBA

Head coaches Popovich, Green salute 'beautiful' C.J. McCollum performance

By Sports Desk December 23, 2022

Both head coaches made sure to point out the superb play of C.J. McCollum after the New Orleans Pelicans' 126-117 win against the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday.

McCollum scored a season-high 40 points on 14-of-27 shooting, adding nine assists, eight rebounds and two blocks in the absence of his max-contract teammates Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram.

It's the latest strong outing in McCollum's recent hot-streak, now averaging 31.5 points, 7.5 assists and six rebounds in his past four games.

It is in stark contrast to McCollum's early-season production, with the 31-year-old initially showing the warning signs of a decline. He is averaging 19.4 points – his lowest figure since the 2014-15 season – while his 42.0 field goal percentage is the lowest since his rookie year.

His renaissance has come at the perfect time, according to head coach Willie Green, who called his guard's performance "beautiful".

"It was great to see C.J. have a night like he did tonight," he said. "40 points, the nine assists were impressive, he rebounded the ball.

"We needed that type of production from him with the guys being out. It’s beautiful to watch when he’s on the floor and he’s scoring like he does.

"When guys are out, I think the beauty in what we're able to see is that all of our guys step up, and enjoy these moments, these opportunities. I've said it before, some people look at it as obstacles, but our guys relish these moments."

Pelicans backup center Willy Hernangomez said it is fun to see his teammate begin to find his groove.

"McCollum dominated the game from the very beginning," he said. "I'm happy for C.J. – he’s been really getting his rhythm back. 

"Today was a big game for him. I'm happy to see him making shots and making the right decision over and over."

Future Hall of Fame Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich was also complimentary of McCollum, saying his team does not have the luxury of a player who can take over a game in that fashion.

"We’ll get down, figure it out, and then start playing," he said. "We don’t have somebody like a McCollum that’s going to come in and do what he did to us. 

"We made it a decent game at that point, and then he took over. He was great."

Having snapped a four-game losing streak, the Pelicans are now 19-12 and only a half-game behind the Phoenix Suns (19-11) and the Memphis Grizzlies (19-11) in the race for the top seed in the Western Conference.

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