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C.J. McCollum, Pelicans eliminate Spurs from NBA play-in tournament

New Orleans Pelicans guard C.J. McCollum made all seven of his shots for 19 points in the second quarter of a win over the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday in New Orleans. Photo by David Maxwell/EPA-EFE
New Orleans Pelicans guard C.J. McCollum made all seven of his shots for 19 points in the second quarter of a win over the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday in New Orleans. Photo by David Maxwell/EPA-EFE

April 14 (UPI) -- C.J. McCollum scored a game-high 32 points, with 27 in the first half, to lead the New Orleans Pelicans to a win over the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA play-in tournament. The loss denied the Spurs of a playoff berth.

McCollum made 12 of 23 shots and totaled seven assists and six rebounds in the 113-103 victory Wednesday at Smoothie King Center in New Orleans. Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram totaled 27 points. Center Jonas Valanciunas chipped in 22 points and 14 rebounds.

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"I was just trying to be locked in and aggressive early and try to set the table later in the game,'' McCollum told reporters ''The playoffs is a lot of antics, a lot of momentum plays, a lot of back and forth.

"You've got to be stable and mentally locked in and engaged to [maintain] a certain level of attention and focus throughout the game."

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The Pelicans, the No. 9 seed, outshot the No. 10 Spurs 54.3% to 40.7%. They also outscored the Spurs 56-38 in the paint and 19-9 off turnovers, and led by as many as 21 points.

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They will now face the No. 8 Los Angeles Clippers, who lost to the No. 7 Minnesota Timberwolves in Tuesday's first Western Conference play-in game, for the final slot in the NBA playoffs.

"[McCollum] set the tone early," Pelicans coach Willie Green said of Wednesday's win. "He understood the moment, and it sort of calmed the rest of the guys down.

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"We just got the ball to him and he made play after play and score after score. Then the rest of the guys just started to feed off CJ.''

The Spurs started the game with an 8-2 run. The Pelicans answered with a 10-2 run and took a 26-22 edge into the second quarter. Ingram scored 11 points over the first 12 minutes.

McCollum caught fire in the second. He made all seven of his attempts for 19 points to help the Pelicans outscore the Spurs 35-28 in the quarter. The Pelicans led 61-50 at halftime.

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Valanciunas poured in a dozen in the third and the Pelicans took a 92-75 lead into the fourth. Ingram paced the Pelicans with 10 points down the stretch as they clinched a play-in matchup with the Clippers.

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Spurs forward Devin Vassell scored a team-high 23 points in the loss. Spurs guard Dejounte Murray and center Jakob Poeltl totaled 16 points apiece.

The Clippers host the Pelicans in the final game of the NBA play-in tournament at 10 p.m. EDT Friday at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles. The winner will advance to a first-round series against the No. 1 Phoenix Suns.

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