The New Orleans Pelicans secured their first winning season since 2017-18 Friday night, defeating the New York Knicks 113-105.
Trey Murphy led New Orleans with 31 points while CJ McCollum added 23. Although the game was tied through three, the Pelicans outscored the Knicks 30-22 in the final period of play.
“It’s a tremendous blessing to have a winning record as it’s hard to win in the NBA,” Pelicans head coach Willie Green said. “We’re watching Trey grow up right in front of us.”
Despite shooting only 35% from beyond the arc and 12 turnovers, New Orleans (42-39) was able to pull out the win, finishing the 2022-23 season with a 27-14 home record – the team’s best since 2014-15.
The Knicks (47-34), who have already clinched the Eastern Conference’s No. 5 seed, were without leading scorers Julius Randle and Jalen Brunson. RJ Barrett led the team with 28 points while Immanuel Quickley added 24.
Possibly the biggest news for the Pelicans on Friday was not the win itself but executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin revealing that Zion Williamson would not return at the earliest until a first-round playoff series.
“Our best possible outcome would be if everything lined up perfectly, maybe you’re in a position to practice prior to a first-round series,” Griffin told reporters. “Or maybe practice during a first round. But it’s going to take more than one practice, right? It’s really hard. We may never get to that point either. If it’s not a situation where those things align and he feels the way he needs to feel, we’re not going to let him go to the next phase.”
Williamson, who has been out with hamstring issues since Jan. 2, has averaged 26 points, seven rebounds, and five assists in 29 games this year. However, injuries continue to be the storyline of the young star’s career as Williamson has now missed 194 of 308 games in three seasons in the NBA.
New Orleans will head to Minnesota (40-40) for Sunday’s regular-season finale where they will look for a win as well as some help from Golden State and the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers to climb higher than the seventh seed and avoid a play-in game.