Zion Williamson scored a season-high 31 points, and the New Orleans Pelicans used a dominant second half to defeat the Portland Trail Blazers 138-117 on Tuesday night.
Playing 28 minutes in just his ninth NBA game, Williamson used his 6-foot-6, 285-pound frame, quick feet and explosive vertical to have his way with every defender Portland tried against him. Williamson was either too strong, too fast, or both. He mixed spinning dribbles and sudden baseline drives into his usual arsenal of soaring transition dunks and tenacious putbacks.
JJ Redick scored 20 and Josh Hart had 17 points for New Orleans, which trailed by as many as 16 in the first quarter before taking command en route to a third straight victory. Jrue Holiday contributed 16 points and 10 assists, while Lonzo Ball added 10 points and 10 assists.
Portland star Damian Lillard scored 20 points – less than half of his 42-point average over his previous 10 games. But his playing time was limited in the fourth quarter when the Pelicans, who led by as many as 26, had put the game out of reach.
CJ McCollum had 18 points for the Trail Blazers, and Carmelo Anthony also finished with 18, but just four after halftime. Hassan Whiteside had 17 points and 14 rebounds.
After Williamson’s early dunk and free throws helped New Orleans surge to a 12-7 lead, Portland suddenly turned the tide with a 24-3 run that began with a pair of turnaround jumpers by Anthony, who later added a cutting dunk. McCollum hit a pair of 3s, Whiteside scored on a floater and a hook shot, and Lillard added a driving layup while being fouled.
That stretch put the Pelicans in a 31-15 hole, out of which they gradually climbed for the duration of the half.
Williamson, who scored 17 in the first half, helped fuel the comeback, throwing down Holiday’s alley-oop lob with two hands to cut Portland’s lead to 60-54. Hart and Jackson each hit 3s late in the period, Holiday added a slashing transition layup through a crowd of converging defenders and Williamson’s free throw cut Portland’s lead to 65-63 at halftime.
New Orleans then pushed in front in the third, when Hart scored 12 points on shots ranging from a pull-up in the lane, to a breakaway dunk after his steal, to a left-wing 3.
New Orleans scored 41 points in the period alone, leading by as many as 21 when Redick hit his second 3 of the quarter to make it 104-83.