Murray’s 31 points power Spurs past Pelicans, 124-114
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Dejounte Murray had 31 points and 12 rebounds, and the San Antonio Spurs beat the New Orleans Pelicans 124-114 on Saturday night to give them a pair of double-digit, wire-to-wire road victories in the span of 24 hours.
Murray controlled the game with a combination of accurate perimeter shooting on pull-ups and fades alike, explosive drives and forceful finishing around the basket.
“That’s a superstar right there. Plain and simple,” said Spurs guard Lonnie Walker, who scored 17 points. “It’s like he’s getting better and better and better, which is absolutely scary.”
Keldon Johnson added 16 points and Doug McDermott had 15 for the Spurs (22-35), who have remained within touching distance of the final Western Conference play-in spot.
“Hell yeah, we’re playing for the playoffs,” Murray said. “Nobody is here to lose.
“When we lose, it’s quiet, and people are down,” Murray continued. “When we win, you can feel the excitement in the room from everybody.”
And while it’s unusual for teams more than 10 games below .500 to play two straight nights on the road without trailing at all, never mind winning by 10 or more, Walker sees San Antonio’s recent form as indicative of his team’s potential during the final third of the regular season.
“It’s just growth; we’re a young team, but we’re a hell of a team,” Walker said. “We have a lot of great players. We have a super star in the making. We’re only going to get better and better.”
CJ McCollum had a season-high 36 points on 15-of-24 shooting and grabbed 11 rebounds for New Orleans (22-34), which occupied the 10th and final play-in spot in the Western Conference standings when it acquired the star guard from Portland on Tuesday, but is 0-2 since.
“They just knocked us on our heels all game,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said. “We have to have more force and more physicality when it comes to our defense, and we didn’t tonight.
“But, you know, it’s going to take some work to incorporate everybody, get everybody up to speed to the way we play, the way we do things defensively,” Green added. “It’s another adjustment we have to make.”
Brandon Ingram added 22 points and Jonas Valanciunas had 17 points and 12 rebounds for the Pelicans.
Murray shined during a pivotal 19-5 run in the third quarter that put the Spurs up by double digits for good.
He muscled in a reverse layup while being fouled on the arm by McCollum and hit the free throw to complete the three-point play. Murray followed that with a left wing 3 that made it 83-68.
“We have to continue to play with that chip on our shoulders,” Murray said. “Each and every one of us have something to prove. We’re trying to play together and have fun. I’m trying to smile and have fun more because if you have fun, it allows you to play really good basketball on both ends.”
One night after making 18 3s in a victory at Atlanta, the Spurs made 14 of 37 (37.8%). The Pelicans made 11 of 34 (34.4%) from 3-point range, but several of their made 3s came after they’d fallen behind by 18 in the fourth quarter. Devonte’ Graham, normally one of New Orleans top 3-point threats, missed all six of his shots — four from deep — and did not score.
“Just not his typical night,” Green said. “It’s a night that he’s got to flush and come back and be aggressive next game.”
The Spurs also outscored New Orleans 50-42 inside.
Spurs: Murray notched his 28th double-double this season, one night after registering his 11th triple-double of the current campaign in Atlanta. ... San Antonio has defeated New Orleans four straight times. ... Former Pelicans guard Tomas Satoransky was available to make his debut with San Antonio for the first time since being traded from New Orleans to Portland and then to San Antonio before Thursday’s trade deadline. He did not play, however.
Pelicans: Reserve C Willy Hernangomez returned from a four-game absence tied to health and safety protocols. He played 12 minutes and had six rebounds, four points and two assists. ... McCollum now has 20 20-point games this season, with 19 of those for Portland.
Spurs: Visit Chicago on Monday night for the fourth stop on their eight-game “Rodeo Road Trip.”
Pelicans: Host Toronto on Monday night in the fourth of six straight home games.
More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/tag/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports