NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Pelicans second-year pro Trey Murphy III was just starting to get regular minutes off the bench as a rookie last spring.
Now he’s the type of player who – on a good night – can send a crowd into a frenzy with a thrilling, addictive mix of deep shots and flashy finishes on the frame.
Murphy hit a career-best nine 3-pointers to cap his career-high 41 points and lead the New Orleans Pelicans to a 127-110 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday night.
“Trey was incredible,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said of the club’s 2021 first-round draft pick. “He’s shooting and he’s having an unbelievable year. I am extremely proud of him.”
Murphy, who competed in the dunk contest during last month’s NBA All-Star Game, also made some classy baskets, scoring his final points on a sharp two-handed dunk before leaving the game for good to a standing ovation.
“My game is very diverse,” Murphy said. “I can score in different ways. So I guess ending with an exclamation point like dunk is pretty cool.”
CJ McCollum had 22 points and 11 assists for New Orleans, which made 18 of the team’s first 30 3-point attempts before going 19 of 40 (47.5%) from deep.
Josh Richardson scored 19 points for the Pelicans, who won for the second time in two games as they try to continue their push for a Western Conference postseason berth.
Herbert Jones added 16 points and Jonas Valanciunas had 11 points and 12 rebounds to help New Orleans to an easy win despite being without high-scoring wing Brandon Ingram (right ankle) for the second straight game.
The Blazers were without star guard and leading scorer Damian Lillard, who was out with right calf strain.
Anfernee Simons scored 17 points for Portland, while Shaedon Sharpe and Kevin Knox each had 14 points and Cam Reddish added 11.
“Trey Murphy had a night; Guys are going to have a night, but we didn’t challenge him,” Portland coach Chauncey Billups said. “We didn’t try to be aggressive in any way and we didn’t make any adjustments. That’s what’s difficult for me as a coach.”
After a lackluster double-digit home loss to Oklahoma City on Saturday night that saw them trail by 21 in the first half, the Pelicans flipped the script against Portland.
Murphy made five of his 3-pointers in the first 24 minutes and scored 25 points as New Orleans led by as many as 20.
“I definitely felt like we responded really well” to last night’s loss, Murphy said. “We had a lot of pace today.”
McCollum scored all the points in the first half, and the veteran guard was able to be benched for good after playing just 30 minutes.
“We were a little inconsistent in our play, but today’s game was focused on the details and the game plan was great. That’s what’s needed,” Green said. “And it’s fun when we can play like that.”
New Orleans led 74-54 at halftime and scored as many as 39 points in the second half, too much for Portland to overcome.
“I feel like we didn’t get off to the start we needed and we just put a lot of pressure on the bench,” Portland winger Nasir Little said. “It’s hard to try to overcome that type of deficit and then sustain it throughout the game.”
Trail Blazers: Fall to 5-9 without Lillard. … Little, Mathis Tyboul and Trendon Watford each scored 10 points. … Committed 19 turnovers, leading to 27 Pelicans points. … Outrebounded New Orleans in the paint, 64-44.