NBA: Zion Williamson leads Pelicans past Wizards
NBA

NBA: Zion Williamson leads Pelicans past Wizards

/ 02:15 PM February 15, 2024

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New Orleans Pelicans Zion Williamson NBA

New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson (1) dunks over Washington Wizards forward Marvin Bagley III (35) during the second half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)

NEW ORLEANS— Zion Williamson scored 36 points, CJ McCollum added 26 and the New Orleans Pelicans beat Washington 133-126 in the NBA on Wednesday night, overcoming Deni Avdija’s career-best 43 points for the Wizards.

Avdija, a fourth-year player from Israel, blew past his previous high of 25 points before the midpoint of the third quarter, finishing with 20 points in that period. He also matched a season high with 14 rebounds, and and he helped keep it close until the final minute.

“Start to finish, he played a great game, and he did it on both ends of the floor,” Williamson said. “Even when his team was down, his energy was still high. You’ve got to give respect to a player like that.”

READ: NBA: Pelicans defeat Trail Blazers for 5th victory in 6 games

New Orleans (33-22) has its best record entering the All-Star break since going 36-16 in 2007-08, when the franchise was still the Hornets.

Corey Kispert added 20 points for Washington, which lost its eighth straight, the league’s longest active skid. The Wizards have just one victory over a team that’s currently over .500.

With the game tied at 115-all, Williamson put the Pelicans ahead for good on a driving layup with 5:15 left. He scored again on a post move to make it 119-115.

READ: NBA: D’Angelo Russell, Lakers roll past Pelicans

The Wizards pulled within 129-126 on Jordan Poole’s 3-pointer with 21.2 seconds left, but the Pelicans’ Trey Murphy III hit two free throws to clinch it.

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“It’s a gutsy win coming off a long road trip,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said. “We gave them some life. Once you give a team life, their confidence is high. We had to grind to get this win, but we’ll take it.”

The Pelicans’ start was reminiscent of their past two games, when they failed to score 100 in back-to-back outings for the first time this season despite winning both. Williamson missed a layup the first time they had the ball, and the score was tied at 9-all midway through the first quarter.

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The offense heated up from there. McCollum scored seven quick points, and the Pelicans then started the second quarter with a 14-0 spurt, keyed by Williamson’s two layups and four free throws.

After trailing by 20, the Wizards closed the first half on a 14-2 run that included Poole banking in a 3-pointer in at the halftime buzzer. They hit 19 of their last 31 shots after starting 4 of 17.

“We’ve got to stop doing that,” Williamson said. “We get a lead, especially if we want to make a deep run in the playoffs, we’ve got to be able to maintain leads.”

The Wizards went ahead 87-81 in the third on Kispert’s uncontested drive to the basket.

Late in the period, Washington’s Landry Shamet corralled a loose ball on the floor and Larry Nance Jr. reached between Shamet’s legs to try to grab it, leading to an altercation. Both were called for technicals, and New Orleans won the ensuing jump ball. Williamson dribbled nearly 70 feet for a layup that put the Pelicans back ahead 99-98 with 0.4 seconds left in the third.

New Orleans never trailed in the fourth quarter but had plenty of anxious moments. Led by Avdija’s career-best six 3-pointers, the Wizards made a franchise-record 21 3s on 45 attempts.

“He read the game well, and we put him in positions to take advantage of his quickness and his athleticism to the rim,” interim coach Brian Keefe said. “And then when the ball was kicked to him, he shot when he was open.”

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NEXT SCHEDULE

Wizards: At Denver on Feb. 22 after the All-Star break.

Pelicans: Host Houston on Feb. 22.

TAGS: NBA, New Orleans Pelicans

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