McCollum scores 33 points to lift short-handed Pelicans over Pistons
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — CJ McCollum says he enjoys basketball too much to allow fatigue or a thrown-off routine to stop him from doing what he can to carry the short-handed New Orleans Pelicans through back-to-back games.
He even found a moment during a second-quarter stoppage against Detroit on Thursday night to play rock-paper-scissors with a young fan.
“I actually owe that kid some shoes,” an exhausted but grinning McCollum said. “We got to find the kid. I lost.”
The Pelicans, however, beat the Pistons, 125-116, thanks in large part to McCollum with his 33-point night.
“He did everything we asked him to do and more,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said of McCollum, who scored 29 points Wednesday night in a victory at Oklahoma City. “It’s a credit to his mindset, to his character and to the work that he puts in.”
Williamson, who has been injury prone during his first four NBA seasons, was given the night off with the Pelicans playing the second of three games in four nights.
Ingram missed his third straight game with right knee tendinitis.
The Pelicans also had to take an unusual game-day flight home because of their plane's mechanical problems Wednesday night, after New Orleans had pulled off the largest road comeback in franchise history by erasing a 22-point deficit.
“The biggest thing is the mental toughness it took to overcome all of the sort of obstacles that we dealt with in the last 24 hours,” Green said. “It’s a credit to the character in that locker room. This is a total preparation-meets-opportunity moment and guys stepped up.”
Matt Ryan, a third-year pro out of Chattanooga, got his first-career start and scored a career-high 20 points, hitting 6 of 8 3-pointers.
“I feel like I’m just getting started, still making a name for myself,” Ryan said. “I’m not used to playing so many minutes in the NBA. … I love it.”
Jonas Valanciunas had 23 points and 13 rebounds, while Herb Jones added 21 points and had a career-high four blocked shots.
Trailing by as much as 25 points in the second quarter, Detroit got back within single digits when Sasser’s 3 made it 111-103 with 4:03 left, but Jones hit a driving layup while being fouled on New Orleans’ next trip down the court.
“We have a number of guys out there that just said, ‘Enough, we got to guard the ball, we got to push hard,’" said Pistons coach Monty Williams, whose team also was playing a second game in two nights.
McCollum scored 25 points in the first half on shots ranging from scoop set up by a euro step in the lane to, driving floaters off the glass or 3-pointers. His early production helped New Orleans build its largest lead at 70-45.
It was about that time that McCollum engaged with a young fan holding a sign challenging players to a game of rock-paper-scissors for their shoes.
“I was a kid. I got kids. So, you see the joy, the excitement in the kid, being at a game,” McCollum said. “Just a moment where it made sense. He had a nice sign. It was very clever and I think he had a jersey on. So, why not?”
Pistons: Host Phoenix on Sunday.
Pelicans: Host Atlanta on Saturday.
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