NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Zion Williamson had 33 points, four steals and two blocks, and Trey Murphy added six 3-pointers and 26 points as the New Orleans Pelicans beat the Toronto Raptors 126-108 on Wednesday night.
The Pelicans shot 52.3% from the floor on 45-of-86 shooting, had 28 assists and led by as many as 31 points midway through the third quarter before Toronto rallied, cutting the deficit to 113-102 with 5:30 left.
But Williamson, who also had 10 rebounds, iced the game by igniting an 8-0 run over the next 1:27. He blocked a Pascal Siakam layup attempt at one end and finished with a dunk at the other. He then had steals on Toronto’s next two possessions, leading to another fast-break dunk and then a put-back layup by Dyson Daniels.
Williamson capped the blitz by rebounding a missed layup and getting a quick put-back as the Pelicans extended their lead to 121-102 with 3:24 left.
Pelicans coach Willie Green said Williamson’s role during the key sequence couldn’t be understated.
“That was a huge moment in the game,” Green said. “They had cut it to (11) points, and it was sort of ‘time, score, situation.’ Zion just knew, ‘All right, I need to take over the game,’ and he did it on both ends. We knew that his athletic ability offensively is impressive. But to go up and get some blocks, to grab the rebound and take it full court and get to the basket, get to the foul line — those are things great players do.”
“I got the basket, and then it was to sprint back on defense because they were pushing it,” Williamson said. “I kind of saw his eyes and went and double-teamed O.G. (Anunoby). I was able to get the steal and make a play. The whole thought process was ‘make a play.'”
Siakam said Williamson was the difference. “He got whatever he wanted tonight,” Siakam said.
Four other Pelicans scored in double figures: Jonas Valanciunas had 16 points and 13 rebounds, rookie Dyson Daniels added 14 points, eight rebounds and nine assists, Herb Jones had 12 points and Larry Nance Jr. 10.
Toronto was led by Gary Trent Jr., who scored 35 points, and Siakam with 23.
Williamson scored nine of the Pelicans’ first 14 points and was nearly unstoppable in the first half, scoring 17 points and dishing out four assists as the Pelicans raced to a 74-47 halftime lead. It was the Pelicans’ highest-scoring half of the season.
“It was disappointing we didn’t play very good defense all night long, really,” Toronto coach Nick Nurse said.
At 13-8, Pelicans are five games over .500 for the first time since 2017-18. That success has come despite the absence of Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum.
“When guys go down, we don’t look at it as an obstacle for us,” Green said. “It’s an opportunity to go out and continue to grow as a team, continue to build. We’re not there yet, but we’ll continue to build toward what we can do.”
Raptors: G Fred VanVleet picked up his second technical and went to the locker room 41 seconds into the second half. … Nurse said Siakam’s 10-game absence helped the Raptors not be “so heavily reliant” on his 24.1 ppg scoring.
Pelicans: F Brandon Ingram (left toe), G CJ McCollum (reconditioning) and F Naji Marshall (non-COVID illness) missed the game. … F Herb Jones twisted his left ankle and left midway through the third quarter.
Raptors: Host San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday.
Pelicans: At San Antonio on Friday before returning for four straight at home.
© 2022 The Canadian Press