NEW ORLEANS (AP)CJ McCollum stopped suddenly near the left sideline, dribbled between his legs, behind his back and then crossed over to create enough space to let fly a 3-pointer that New Orleans absolutely needed to avoid a late meltdown.
McCollum scored 13 of his 32 points in the final four minutes and the Pelicans held off the Dallas Mavericks 113-106 on Wednesday night.
“No excuse, just produce. Figure out a way to get the job done. That’s what it’s going to take for us down the stretch,” McCollum said. “Make or miss, I’ve got to be aggressive for us and make something happen.”
McCollum’s compelling finish came after each team lost a top player. The Pelicans’ Brandon Ingram left late in the second quarter with a sprained right ankle after scoring 12 points. Dallas star guard Luka Doncic left in the third with a strained left thigh after scoring 15 points.
“Pushing off is really hard for me,” Doncic said, noting he wasn’t sure what was causing the pain that he began to notice the day after a Feb. 23 victory over San Antonio. “It’s weird.”
Doncic added that he would have an MRI as early as Thursday.
The Pelicans had no update on Ingram, but he celebrated near the bench with teammates after the victory and walked out of the arena on his own, exchanging pleasantries along the way.
The Mavericks were down by as many as 19 in the third quarter and by double digits well into the fourth. But the Mavs suddenly surged within striking distance with a 12-0 run that began with Davis Bertans’ 3, Kyrie Irving’s 4-point play on a 3 as he was fouled, and Christian Wood’s 3-point play on a layup as he was fouled.
Irving added a driving layup along the baseline that made it 97-94 with 4:12 left.
That’s when McCollum snapped the run with two clutch baskets – a 14-foot pull-up and his left-sideline 3. He added two more 3s and a floating bank shot to make it 110-103 in the final minute.
“He made big shot after big shot – and that’s what it takes for us to have an opportunity to win games like this,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said, adding that McCollum’s production has been hindered recently by a thumb injury.
“He’s been banged up a bit, but tonight he looked like the CJ that we’re all accustomed to seeing,” Green said. “And we have to put the ball in his hands and let him operate.”
Trey Murphy III scored 16 for New Orleans. Herb Jones and Jaxson Hayes each added 14 points for the Pelicans.
Irving scored 27 points and Tim Hardaway Jr added 17 points for Dallas.
Coming off a four-point victory over Utah on Tuesday night, Dallas faded quickly after a productive first few minutes. The Mavs hit two of their first four 3s and went up 14-6 on Powell’s alley-oop dunk of Doncic’s lob, but then missed 13 of their next 14 shots from deep.
By the end of the opening quarter, the Pelicans had tied it at 24 on rookie Dyson Daniels’ 3-pointer.
New Orleans opened the second quarter with eight straight points on McCollum’s 3, Hayes’ alley-oop dunk and Naji Marshall’s banked 3, and went on to lead by as many as 18 before taking a 59-43 lead into halftime.
“We missed some easy ones that we normally make and I think that affected our non-defensive effort there in the second (quarter),” Mavericks coach Jason Kidd said. “We just stopped playing defense and they took advantage of it.”
New Orleans maintained a comfortable lead for most of the second half.
Jones scored eight of his points in the third quarter, when Murphy hit two 3s, and New Orleans led 90-74 after Murphy’s third 3 of the half early in the fourth.
Mavericks: Wood finished with 15 points and Jaden Hardy 11. … Shot 16 of 46 (34.8%) from 3-point range … Doncic was assessed his 15th technical foul this season in the first quarter while staring down official Natalie Sago after making a driving shot on which he apparently thought he’d also been fouled. … Reggie Bullock missed the game with a bruised right quadriceps, Maxi Kleber was out with a right hamstring injury and center JaVale McGee was sidelined by a sprained right ankle.
Pelicans: The club announced before tip-off that All-Star forward Zion Williamson will be out at least two more weeks while he recovers from a Jan. 2 right hamstring injury. … Shot 50.6% (42 of 83) overall and 48.1% (13 of 27) from deep. … Outrebounded Dallas 49-34.
Mavericks: At Memphis on Saturday.
Pelicans: Host Oklahoma City on Saturday.
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