Pelicans need to remain focused against struggling Blazers
Trey Murphy III will attempt to follow up a contest in which he was hotter than lava when the streaking New Orleans Pelicans visit the struggling Portland Trail Blazers on Monday night.
Murphy buried a career-best 10 3-pointers in just 12 attempts while scoring 32 points in Saturday's 131-110 rout of the host Los Angeles Clippers. Brandon Ingram also scored 32 as the Pelicans won their fourth consecutive game.
The sight of the Trail Blazers will be pleasing to Murphy, who scored a career-best 41 points and made a then-career-high nine 3-pointers in New Orleans' 127-110 home win over Portland on March 12. He was 13 of 20 overall from the field.
"I just see his confidence going up and up," Ingram said after the win in Los Angeles. "He's the best shooter on the team."
Murphy is 37 of 70 (52.9 percent) from 3-point range during the past seven games for New Orleans (37-37), which resides in eighth place in the Western Conference. The Pelicans are one game out of a top-six playoff berth with eight games remaining.
"Trey shot the cover off the ball," Pelicans coach Willie Green said. "And it was good to see him make shot after shot after shot. He's capable, our team is capable, and that's the standard in which we want to play."
Murphy fell one 3-pointer shy of CJ McCollum's club mark but helped New Orleans tie the team record of 21 in a game.
Despite being without Zion Williamson for the past 37 games, the Pelicans are clicking at a pivotal time.
New Orleans has prevailed by an average of 21.3 points during the winning streak.
Before the 21-point win over the Clippers in the opener of a four-game trip, the Pelicans won by margins of 10, 35 and 19 points. They scored at least 115 points in all four of the victories.
Meanwhile, Portland (32-42) has fallen out of the race for a play-in berth with eight losses in the past nine games. The troubles continued when the short-handed Trail Blazers lost 118-112 to the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday.
Damian Lillard (calf) missed his second straight game as speculation persists that the club may shut him down for the season. Fellow starters Jusuf Nurkic (knee), Jerami Grant (quadriceps) and Anfernee Simons (foot) also sat out while Trendon Watford (ankle) departed in the first quarter and didn't return.
Rookie Shaedon Sharpe scored a career-high 29 points for his third straight game of 20 or more points. He is averaging 25.7 points during the stretch.
Nassir Little played 31 minutes off the bench and scored a season-best 28 points while impressing coach Chauncey Billups.
"What I love most is the extra-effort plays that he makes -- an offensive rebound here, a defensive rebound here and there," Billups said afterward. "I know he can shoot. He is one of the best shooters on our team, so it was good to see him really get going."
Little, a fourth-year pro, scored eight total points on 3-of-14 shooting over the previous three games. But he was full of confidence while making 11 of 21 shots against the Thunder.
"When guys go down, there are more opportunities," Little said. "So whatever situation Coach has got me in, you just take advantage of it. My mindset needs to change -- they're going to need me to score a little bit more, and it's something I'm capable of doing, so I don't feel like I'm trying to showcase something they don't know that I can do."
The Pelicans are 2-1 against the Trail Blazers this season and have won five of the past six meetings.
--Field Level Media
Updated March 27, 2023