NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Pelicans second-year pro Trey Murphy III was only beginning to earn regular minutes off the bench as a rookie last spring.
Now he’s the type of player who — on a good night — can whip a crowd into a jubilant frenzy with a stirring, momentum-driving mix of deep shots and flamboyant finishes at the rim.
Murphy hit a career-best nine 3-pointers to highlight his career-high 41 points, and the New Orleans Pelicans defeated the Portland Trail Blazers 127-110 on Sunday night.
“Trey was incredible,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said of the club’s 2021 first-round draft choice. “He’s a shot-maker and he’s having an unbelievable year. I’m extremely proud of him.”
Murphy, who participated in the dunk contest during NBA All-Star weekend last month, also had a couple baskets of the high-flying variety, scoring his final points on a driving, two-handed reverse dunk before checking out of the game for good to a standing ovation.
“My game is a very diverse game,” Murphy said. “I can score in many different ways. So, I guess ending with an exclamation point like a dunk is pretty cool.”
CJ McCollum had 22 points and 11 assists for New Orleans, which made 18 of its first 30 3-point attempts as a team before finishing 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 stay in contention for a Western Conference postseason berth.
Herbert Jones added 16 points, and Jonas Valanciunas had 11 points and 12 rebounds to help New Orleans win handily despite playing for a second straight game without high-scoring wing Brandon Ingram (right ankle).
The Blazers played without star guard and leading scorer Damian Lillard, who sat out because of tightness in his right calf.
Anfernee Simons scored 17 for Portland, while Shaedon Sharpe and Kevin Knox each scored 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 enough,” Portland coach Chauncey Billups said. “We didn’t try to be aggressive at all and we didn’t make the adjustments. Those are the things that are difficult for me as a coach.”
Coming off a lackluster, double-digit home loss to Oklahoma City on Saturday night that saw them trailing by 21 in the first half, the Pelicans flipped the script against Portland.
Murphy hit five of his 3s and scored 25 points in the opening 24 minutes, when New Orleans led by as many as 20.
“I definitely felt like we responded very well” to the previous night’s loss, Murphy said. “We had a lot of pace today.”
McCollum had all of his points in the first half and the veteran guard was able to go to the bench for good after playing just 30 minutes.
“We’ve been a bit inconsistent in our play but tonight was a game that we were locked into the details and the game plan was excellent. That’s what it takes,” Green said. “And it’s fun when we can play like that.”
New Orleans led 74-54 at halftime and led by as many as 39 points in the second half, too much for Portland to overcome.
“I feel like we didn’t get out to the start we needed and we were just putting a lot of pressure on the bench,” Portland wing player Nassir Little said. “It’s tough trying to overcome that type of deficit and then maintain that through the course of the game.”
Trail Blazers: Fell to 5-9 without Lillard. … Little, Matisse Thybulle and Trendon Watford each scored 10 points. … Committed 19 turnovers, which led to 27 Pelicans points. … Outscored New Orleans in the paint, 64-44.