The New Orleans Pelicans put away the Trail Blazers 138-117 behind a scorching third quarter and a career-high 31 points from Zion.
Both the New Orleans Pelicans and Portland Trail Blazers were playing well coming into tonight’s matchup, which could have playoff implications down the road. The Trail Blazers came out firing, opening up a 16 point lead early in the first half behind impressive play from Hassan Whiteside, who had a double-double in the second quarter and was having his way with Derrick Favors. The Pelicans didn’t help themselves, with some sloppy play early on and lazy passes that led to turnovers. The Pelicans tightened up their passing and were able to chip away at the lead and were down just two points at the half.
The Pelicans then exploded for 41 points in the third quarter, hitting 15-23 from the field and essentially putting the game away. It was a great home win for the Pelicans and with one game left before the All-Star break, puts them in position to go into the break on a high note. Here are three takeaways from tonight’s big win against the Trail Blazers.
Those who were worried about Zion Williamson‘s injury shouldn’t be. The Pelicans’ star rookie scored an efficient 31 points in just 28 minutes for a +25 plus/minus, best on the team. He added nine rebounds and five assists and the Pelicans’ offense was generally unstoppable when he was on the floor. This was evident in the second quarter when Zion exited after a 7-0 run by the Pelicans. The Trail Blazers immediately went on a run and Whiteside was able to secure a double-double with four minutes left in the quarter. Williamson’s absence was immediately felt.
Williamson was especially impressive on the offensive boards, grabbing six, mostly on his own misses. When Zion is able to bully his way into the lane there is not much opponents can do to stop him, and even when he misses, he often gets his own rebound. Zion is a force in the lane and has the chance to be an elite offensive rebounder if he’s not already.
His presence was also felt in transition, where he completely changes the game, even when he doesn’t touch the ball. The streaking Williamson constantly demanded attention, which left open lanes for Josh Hart and Lonzo Ball in transition. The mere threat of one of Williamson’s highlight reel dunks was enough to open up transition buckets for his teammates.
Zion was impressive in his return and Ja Morant’s lock on the Rookie of the Year award suddenly doesn’t look so solid.