Zion, 23 pts, leads shorthanded Pelicans to victory over OKC
A heads-up inbounds play by Herb Jones helped seal the deal in the final seconds
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - With no Brandon Ingram or C.J. McCollum available in the starting lineup Monday (Nov. 28) night, Zion Williamson scored 23 points, leading the Pelicans to a 105-101 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder at home in the Smoothie King Center.
Zion, the team’s season leader in scoring with an average of 22.5 ppg, was efficient from the field in his 35 total minutes of play, making 11-of-18 shots (61 percent). Not only was Zion reliable in getting the ball through the hoop, but he also filled up stat categories across the board, stepping up in the absence of playmakers Ingram and McCollum.
Zion flirted with a triple-double, grabbing 8 rebounds and dishing out a game-high 8 assists. He also threw in 3 blocks, a career-high, and one steal on the defensive side of the ball for good measure.
“I always try to play basketball the right way,” Williamson said. “Mathematically speaking, if there are three people on me, then two people have to be open.”
Trey Murphy III was second on the team for scoring after getting the start in place of Ingram. His biggest shot of the night came in the fourth quarter when he sank a 31-footer off a Herb Jones assist to go up 100-98 over OKC.
Jeremiah Robinson-Earl responded with a 3-pointer of his own to put OKC back on top 101-100, only for Zion to quiet the Thunder on the next play by converting a layup with a drive into traffic for the slim 102-101 lead.
Protecting a 103-101 lead with :1.5 left on the clock, Herb Jones on the inbounds pass made a heads-up play to bound the ball off a defender’s back in order to enter play, drive to the basket, and pick up the foul. Jones sank two shots at the foul line to seal the victory for New Orleans.
“Those are the type of games that we relish. Guys are out and we believe in each other,” said Pelicans coach Willie Green. “Guys had opportunities to play more minutes and some guys that don’t play a ton had an opportunity to play.”
Jones ended his night with 12 points, 4 steals, 3 blocks, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists. Jose Alvarado, who started in place of McCollum scored 15 points with 4 assists and 2 steals.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was the high-point man for OKC with 31 points.
The win improves the Pels’ record to 12-8, putting them in first place in the Southwest Division and No. 3 in the Western Conference.
The Pels will stay at home Wednesday (Nov. 30) to host the Raptors at SKC with tip-off at 7 p.m.
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