NEW ORLEANS (AP) Trey Murphy scored 31 points, C.J. McCollum added 23 and the New Orleans Pelicans improved their chances of avoiding the play-in round with a 113-105 victory over the New York Knicks on Friday night. The Pelicans (42-39) will need to beat Minnesota on the road in their regular-season finale Sunday and get some help from some combination of Golden State and the Los Angeles Lakers and the Clippers to climb higher than the seventh seed. They also will finish above .500 for the first time since 2017-18.

“It’s a tremendous blessing to have a winning record,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said. “It’s hard to win in the NBA.”

The Knicks, locked into the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, were without leading scorer Julius Randle (ankle injury), second-leading scorer Jalen Brunson (right hand) and center Mitchell Robinson (rest). The game began inauspiciously when Herb Jones blocked RJ Barrett’s 3-point shot and Immanuel Quickley threw a wild pass into the seats on their first two possessions, but they hung around until the final two minutes.

Trailing 100-99, New Orleans went ahead for good on Jones’ drive for a lay-up and took a 106-100 lead on McCollum’s 3-pointer with 3:22 left. After the Knicks closed to 106-103, Brandon Ingram lobbed one-handed to Jones in the corner for another 3 with 1:40 left.

“He (Ingram) makes some nice passes and that one was crazy,” McCollum said. “He’s smart and knows how to read the defense.”

Murphy, who had hit at least six 3s every time he scored 30 points or more in his two-year career, had 20 points in the first half despite sinking only one from long distance. He finished 3 for 10 on 3s.

“We’re watching Trey grow up right in front of us,” Green said. “He’s having a better understanding that when teams close out on him, it’s a quick decision for him getting to the basket and finishing, drawing fouls or kicking it out to teammates.”

Barrett led New York with 28 points. Quickley added 24, hitting six 3s, but the Knicks did not get enough stops, allowing the Pelicans to shoot 53.2 percent. Jones finished 7 of 7.

“I like the effort, I didn’t like our defense,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We did a very good job offensively, creating open shots and we missed some really good shots. We were in a position all the way to the end. We didn’t do enough things to win but we put ourselves in a position to win and fell short.”


Knicks: Obi Toppin started for only the fourth time this season, with Isaiah Hartenstein getting his eighth start. New York’s five-game winning streak ended.

Pelicans: New Orleans executive vice president David Griffin said Friday at the shootaround that Zion Williamson would not return at the earliest until a first-round playoff series, missing the last game of the regular season and any play-in games. Williamson has been out with a hamstring injury since Jan. 2. … New Orleans finished 27-14 at home, its best home record since 2014-15 when it went 28-13.


Knicks: Host Indiana on Sunday to finish the regular season.

Pelicans: At Minnesota on Sunday to close the regular season.


AP NBA: and

Copyright 2023 STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.