No Ingram. No Zion. No Herb.
The New Orleans Pelicans overcame the loss of its two All-Stars and best defender and improved to 3-1 on the season after beating the visiting Dallas Mavericks 113-111 on Wednesday night at the Smoothie King Center.
Trey Murphy III, starting for Brandon Ingram, led the Pelicans with 22 points on a perfect 8-for-8 shooting, including all four of his three point attempts and both of his free throws.
Through four games, Murphy is averaging 15.5 points and 6.5 rebounds while shooting 68 percent from beyond the three-point line and nearly 63 percent overall.
In a true team effort, New Orleans had eight players reach double figures in scoring. It was just the fifth time in franchise history they have accomplished that feat.
CJ McCollum couldn’t find his shot early, but finished strong for the second consecutive game, with seven of his 14 coming in the final 12 minutes. McCollum also dished out 11 assists for his second consecutive double-double.
Jonas Valanciunas added 13 points and seven rebounds in 22 effective minutes.
Naji Marshall (15 points) and Jose Alvarado (13 points, three assists, three steals) rounded out the starting lineup. Both had major contributions and different points of the game.
Luka Doncic had 37 points, 11 rebounds, and seven assists for Dallas. Spencer Dinwiddie (24 points) and Christian Wood (23 points) were the only other Mavs to reach double digits.
Alvarado set the tone early, setting a new career-high for points in the first half, and pushing the tempo as the Pelicans put up 66 points in the first two quarters while turning the ball over just once and shooting better than 62 percent from the floor in taking a two-point lead into the break.
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The pace of the game slowed in the second half and Dallas was able to seize control with a 13-0 run that extended from the 2:28 mark in the third quarter to the 10:18 mark of the fourth to go up 94-87.
Rookie Dyson Daniels put and end to the bleeding with a pair of free throws, and New Orleans would begin to claw its way back. Daniels scored 11 points on an impressive 4-of-5 shooting, while adding three boards, three steals, two assists, and a blocked shot in 22 minutes.
McCollum would nail a floater to cut the deficit to three with 9:55 remaining. Just over a minute later he made his only three pointer of the night to pull the Pelicans to within one at 96-97.
He then gave the Pels back the lead with a beautiful step back jumper that touched nothing but net, sending the SKC crowd into a frenzy.
The much-maligned Devonte Graham knocked down a triple to put New Orleans up 101-100. Graham led the reserves with 14 points on the night.
He was followed by another three from Murphy to push the lead to four. The Pelicans wouldn’t trail again, and Larry Nance Jr. (11 points) would put the exclamation point on the gutsy victory with a powerful dunk coming off a beautiful assist by McCollum.
New Orleans shot 57.9 percent from the floor in the victory, and matched the Mavericks with 12 three-pointers while shooting 44.4 percent from beyond the arc.
The Pelicans finished with 25 assists and committed only 14 turnovers without two of their most valuable scorers and playmakers.
They won the battle down low, outscoring the Mavs 56-54 in points in the paint.
And, with it’s top scorer shifted into a starting role, the Pelicans’ bench came up big with 36 points, besting Dallas’ second unit by one.
The depth of the Pelicans was tested, and on Wednesday night they passed with flying colors.
That experience should serve them well on their upcoming road trip.