After a very competitive, energy-filled first half, the Pelicans were squashed by a 42-27 margin out of intermission. The Hornets hit seven of 14 three-pointers in that decisive third frame. Each Charlotte make felt like a dagger for a New Orleans team that was struggling to defend and score points at the same time ... well, until at least Trey Murphy III checked in.
Following a solid 8-point, 4-rebound first half, Murphy entered the third quarter with Charlotte ahead 77-61 after a 16-6 run. Then he put in serious work.
Murphy added eight more points and another couple of three-pointers in the third but exploded for 16 points and three additional triples in the fourth. His final line, not surprisingly, wound up setting a number of career bests: 32 points, nine rebounds, two assists and seven threes.
This performance also got Trey into the franchise record books.
“He’s been working extremely hard,” Willie Green said in postgame. “You’re starting to see it more as he progresses throughout the season. He’s played in some G League games, which helped him stay sharp. He just played free tonight, and he plays hard. In that previous game, he came out, played hard, gave great effort, and it just carried over. So we’re all proud to see Trey come out and play like he did tonight.”
Fans have been waiting for a breakout by the Pelicans first-round draft pick. In game #67, he delivered, but sadly New Orleans couldn’t make the feeling sweeter by emerging with the victory.
It was particularly troubling to watch the final 5:27 of regulation.
New Orleans trailed 121-108 after a couple of free throws from Herb Jones. By the time the final buzzer sounded, the Hornets had added another 24 points to their total.
The Pelicans’ defense in the second half was embarrassingly bad. Bleeding that many points shouldn’t happen on your home floor even if CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram are listed on the injury report.
For the third time in the last four games, the Pelicans gave up more than 130 points to an opponent. After holding the opposition to an average of 95.5 points in the first four contests out of the All-Star break, they have given up an average of 130.0 points since.
Admittedly with the halftime score at 61-55, there was reason to worry about the final result. Charlotte looked like the superior team once LaMelo Ball shifted into high gear just a few minutes before the end of the first half.
Following a Devonte Graham 3-pointer which knotted the score all up 49, last year’s ROY scored on a drive, hit a three and then delivered a beautiful assist. In the blink of an eye, the Hornets had built a 10-point lead.
Now THAT’S what the Pelicans are missing without any of their stars in uniform, but it thoroughly explains why it’s so important for this undermanned team to give a full effort for an entire 48 minutes — this team’s defense needs to be immediately resuscitated to have any chance to win that next game.
While Trey Murphy stole the headlines, Herb Jones, who tallied 12 points and a career-high eight assists, was the clear winner of the best highlight. His dunk over Mason Plumlee early in the game brought Zion Williamson to his feet and stare in amazement.
Devonte’ Graham struggled with his shot early but found some rhythm late to finish with 19 points, seven assists, four threes and three steals.
Naji Marshall had 14 points, seven rebounds and three steals in a rare start.
Willy Hernangomez had 15 points and six rebounds off the bench.
Up next, the Pelicans will try to end their four-game skid against the Houston Rockets on Sunday. With the Spurs having already won tonight, the Pelicans sit in real danger of slipping out of the Play-In Tournament soon if the losing streak is allowed to continue.