NBA: Pelicans extend Spurs’ skid to 14 games with Wembanyama out
NEW ORLEANS— With Jonas Valanciunas asserting himself near the basket and Trey Murphy hitting timely 3-pointers in his first appearance of the season, the New Orleans Pelicans didn’t need big games from usual top scorers Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram.
It also helped that their opponent was the reeling San Antonio Spurs, who haven’t won a game in weeks and were without top overall draft choice Victor Wembanyama.
Valanciunas had 24 points and 12 rebounds, Murphy hit four second-half 3s to finish with 18 points and the Pelicans beat San Antonio 121-106 in the NBA on Friday night to send the Spurs to their 14th straight loss.
“It’s a blessing to have the guys available that can come in a produce right away,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said, adding that “getting Trey back was huge,” and that the Spurs “didn’t have an answer” for Valanciunas in the paint.
“I was just physical, going for offensive boards, crashing, doing my stuff as I usually do,” Valanciunas said after his eighth double-double this season.
The 7-foot-3 Wembanyama was held out because of right hip tightness. San Antonio’s losing streak is now its second-longest. The Spurs lost 16 in a row last season, when they finished 22-60 and won the NBA draft lottery.
CJ McCollum scored 19 points and Herb Jones added 17 points and three steals for New Orleans, which won its second straight.
Murphy missed New Orleans’ first 19 games while rehabilitating from arthroscopic surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his left knee.
His first basket of the season was an end-to-end layup in transition. The 2023 All-Star Dunk contest runner-up later highlighted his return with a driving, soaring, tomahawk jam.
“Just seeing an open lane, I just had to get up there and show people I still got my athleticism,” said Murphy, who also went 4 of 10 from 3-point range.
Ingram scored 14 points, Williamson had 12 points and the pair had seven assists apiece as they took on more of a facilitator role than usual.
Wembanyama ’s absence came a night after he had 21 points, 12 rebounds and four blocked shots in a 137-135 loss to Atlanta in San Antonio.
The 7-foot-3 Frenchman missed a game for the first time after starting San Antonio’s first 18 games, during which he averaged 19.3 points, 9.7 rebounds and 2.7 blocks.
Devin Vassell led the Spurs in New Orleans with 14 points. Jeremy Sochan scored 13 points and Charles Bassey grabbed 11 rebounds.
“Great back-to-back effort, but the same bugaboos keep cropping up,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said, adding that his team’s 19 turnovers “really put us behind the 8 ball, and we had a lot of undisciplined fouls.”
The issues with turnovers and fouls “are two things they just got to figure out,” Popovich added.
Most of the game was played with just two officials on the court after Scott Wall limped off in the first quarter, leaving Ed Malloy and Aaron Smith to carry on without him.
Spurs: At Minnesota on Wednesday night.
Pelicans: At Chicago on Saturday night.