Murphy III scores 28 points as Pelicans beat Cavaliers
CLEVELAND (AP) — Trey Murphy III scored 28 points while starting in place of New Orleans star Zion Williamson — out with an illness — and the Pelicans pulled away in the second half to beat the undermanned Cleveland Cavaliers 123-104 on Thursday night.
Williamson didn’t travel with the Pelicans, who have been battling a flu bug that has been making its way though the team and affecting several other players in the past few days. Williamson is averaging 22 points.
“Over the last three years I've been saying, we've got a lot of guys who can come up with big games," said Murphy, who missed the first 19 games this season after undergoing left knee surgery in September. "This was my chance.”
Murphy started for the first time this season and helped offset the absence of Williamson by making six 3-pointers as the Pelicans won for the fifth time in six games.
“He should have had 40,” joked Pelicans coach Willie Green. “I'm just kidding. He can space the floor, he's confident and he's a weapon for us, for sure.”
“Herb and J.V. are as tough as nails,” Green said. “They were a little under the weather, but it's hard to keep them off the basketball court.”
A four-time All-Star, Mitchell missed his second straight game due to an illness, while Garland (jaw fracture) and Mobley (knee surgery) are both expected to be out at least until February.
Despite being short-handed this past week, Cleveland went 3-1 on a four-game homestand.
“We’ve had a great week," Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. "To battle the things we’ve had to battle, this has been a successful week for us. We’ve just got to continue to put it together and hold down the fort.”
New Orleans closed the third quarter by scoring 14 straight points to take a 94-76 lead into the final 12 minutes. The Pelicans pushed their lead to 24 in the fourth.
Down by 14 at half, the Cavs stayed close and pulled within 80-76 in the third on Dean Wade's 3-pointer. But the Pelicans responded with the sealing 14-0 run, getting most of their buckets on layups or in transition.
“We just ran out of steam,” Bickerstaff said.
Murphy got hot from outside late in the second quarter, dropping three 3-pointers — one of them from 36 feet — as the Pelicans went on a 15-3 spurt over the final 4:16 to open a 66-52 halftime lead.
Murphy, who joked that he woke up knowing he was going to have a big game, said he's finally feeling like himself.
“I’m close to 100%, but I’m just getting back into a rhythm,” he said.
Cavaliers guard Sam Merrill didn't score in 12 minutes after getting a career-high 27 points while making eight 3-pointers Wednesday night in a win over Utah. Merrill was added to the injury report earlier in the day with a wrist issue after a fall against the Jazz.
“He woke up this morning sore, and tried to play and just couldn't make it," said Bickerstaff, who was told at halftime by the medical staff Merrill was out.
Cavs undrafted rookie Craig Porter Jr. had a season-high 11 assists.
Pelicans: Open five-game homestand against Houston on Saturday night.
Cavaliers: At Chicago on Saturday night.
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