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Pelicans vs. Spurs score, excerpts: CJ McCollum, Brandon Ingram lead New Orleans to clash with Clippers

The New Orleans Pelicans are one victory away from winning a place in the Western Conference playoffs after beating the San Antonio Spurs 113-103 on Wednesday night in Game 9 against 10 of the NBA Playoffs.

CJ McCollum finished with 32 points, seven assists and six rebounds, while Brandon Ingram and Jonas Valanchunas overshadowed the 20-point plateau to lead the offensive line for New Orleans. San Antonio also achieved a balanced result in the offensive end, with six players scoring double-digit points, and a large series continued in the second half to reduce the lead to just six points. In the end, however, it was not enough for them to overcome the deficit they faced.

With the victory, New Orleans advanced to face the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night in an elimination match for the right to be number 8 in the Western Conference and meet the best placed Phoenix Suns in the first round.

Here are three excerpts, along with a summary of our live updates from the game.

1. Pelican buckets

The playoffs are often reduced to individual strikes and the Pelicans have two of the best in the business with CJ McCallum and Brandon Ingram. On Wednesday, Ingram did much of his damage by heading to the edge and reaching the fault line earlier, after which McCollum set to work, showing a seemingly endless set of steps back and stuttering steps. At times, each of them was unguarded – at least by one person – and this shows how dynamic this team can be in the offensive. I mean, what do you have to do with it?

They froze for a while in the second half when San Antonio made their series, but immediately returned to work when the team needed them to seal the victory. McCollum and Ingram are huge reasons why New Orleans will be a difficult out against the Clippers on Friday, and possibly beyond if they make it to the first round against the Phoenix Suns. Then you watch next season with the healthy Zion Williamson back in the fold and suddenly the Pelicans look like a serious contender in the West.

2. Not the Herb

If only post-season awards were to be voted on a few days later, Herb Jones would surely win a few more votes for the All-Defense and All-Rookie teams. Already a favorite on NBA Twitter, the 23-year-old rookie demonstrated his unique defensive talents on the national stage on Wednesday, making countless games that at first glance only he could do. Take, for example, this game in which he takes a block, steals and punches (which doesn’t count because he was previously fouled on the floor) in seconds.

Jones has been an essential part of Pelicans’ success this season, and that’s why. In a post-season situation, he can not only keep the best players on the perimeter of the other team, but is also a defensive playmaker, taking thefts and blocks that lead to easy buckets at the other end. He also shot with a respectable 34 percent of the 3-point range this season and made a 2-for-4 on Wednesday on his way to 12 points, five rebounds, two blocks and two stolen balls.

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3. Pop’s last game?

Greg Popovic has not given any indication that he may retire, nor would we expect him to, but it is always possible that the 73-year-old coaching legend will call it a career before next season. He won a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics and became the NBA leader of all time earlier this season, so there doesn’t seem much left for Pop to achieve. With that in mind, he seems to like coaching a younger team in recovery mode and has been much more … let’s say … nice with the media in recent years.

Whether Popovic retires next week or in another 20 years, he will remain the greatest coach in the NBA of all time and one of the best coaches in every sport. If this was his last match, his Spurs fell with the trademark effort and grace he has soaked into all his teams.

After the loss, Popovic was asked if he would return for his 27th season, and he replied in true pop fashion.

“This issue is inappropriate,” he said.