Murphy scores season-high 30, Pelicans top Kings 136-104
By BRETT MARTEL
AP Sports Writer
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Trey Murphy III highlighted his season-high 30-point performance with six 3-pointers — a couple from well behind the arc — and the New Orleans Pelicans overcame the absence of several starters to beat the Sacramento Kings 136-104 on Sunday night.
“Just got to keep shooting, no matter if you hitting or not,” said Murphy, who’d missed 21 of 31 from deep in his previous five games. “Eventually, your percentage is gong to get to where it’s supposed to be. So, I’m just glad my teammates found me and I was able knock down shots.”
CJ McCollum scored 24 points for the Pelicans, who shot 57.1% overall and combined to hit 14 of 26 from 3-point range after struggling from deep throughout their recent 10-game losing streak.
Willy Hernangomez had 22 points and 16 rebounds, and Naji Marshall scored 17 points for New Orleans, which led by as many as 35 points en route to a second straight victory.
In addition to being without All-Star forward Zion Williamson (right hamstring) for an 18th straight game, the Pelicans also took the floor without high-scoring wing Brandon Ingram and starting center Jonas Valanciunas.
Ingram, who recently returned from a left big toe injury, was given the night off after scoring 35 points in a victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday night. Valanciunas sat out after leaving the Lakers game with a sore right quadriceps muscle.
“All the guys understood that we were down a few guys, so we needed to step up,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said. “Everyone that touched the floor today, they contributed. It started with our defense, getting deflections, challenging shots, rebounding the ball and we just played fast tonight.”
Malik Monk scored 16 for the Kings, who lost their second straight game without De’Aaron Fox. He is away from the team for unspecified personal reasons. Domantas Sabonis had 12 points and 11 rebounds, while Trey Lyles scored 12.
“We’ve had a pretty good year so far and we’ve experienced a lot of highs. And now we’ve hit a little adversity,” Kings coach Mike Brown said.
“I don’t know if we’re all in like we talked about at the beginning of the year and how we’ve been because things are flowing and we’re winning and in third place or whatever,” Brown continued. “I’m going to watch and see how we all handle this. It’s tough to go through, but it’s a great thing for this team to experience. Because if we expect to make the playoffs and we do expect to advance in the playoffs, we’ll have to deal with adversity. … And, right now, I don’t think we’re doing a great job with it.”
Murphy attempted 11 shots, hitting nine, including a soaring dunk set up by his ball fake at the start of a baseline drive.
“B.I. was out, so somebody had to be B.I.,” Murphy said, referring to Ingram. “So, I decided to tap into my B.I. skillset.”
New Orleans scored the first five points of the game, led by as many as 20 in the first half and never trailed.
After allowing 70 first-half points in their previous two games, the Pelicans scored that many in the first half against Sacramento, going ahead 70-50 on Kira Lewis Jr.’s 3 before Monk’s driving finger-roll made it 70-52 at halftime.
The lead grew to 30 when Larry Nance Jr.’s free throw made it 80-50 less than six minutes into the third period. Minutes later, Murphy’s rainbow 3 from 29 feet made it 93-60.
Kings: Davion Mitchell, Kevin Huerter and rookie Keon Ellis each scored 10 points. Ellis’ points came in the final minutes and he hit twice from deep. … Shot 42.7% (35 of 82). … Missed 31 of 42 from 3-point range. … Got 63 points from reserves. … Committed 15 turnovers, leading to 20 Pelicans points.
Pelicans: Nance finished with 10 points and nine rebounds while starting for Valanciunas. … Murphy, a 2021 first-round draft choice out of Virginia, surpassed 1,000 career points. … Outscored Sacramento in the paint, 66-44. … Got 50 points from reserves despite having three of their usual reserves elevated to the starting lineup. … Outrebounded the Kings 48-38.
DEFENDING DOWN LOW
The Pelicans complimented Nance’s defense against Sabonis, who averages nearly 19 points per game.
“Larry, he’s physical. He understands angles and how to cut guys off,” Green said. “He anchored our defense from the start and then his ability to protect the basket. … He’s huge for our team.”
Kings: At Houston on Monday.
Pelicans: Host Atlanta on Tuesday.
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