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Williamson powers short-handed Pelicans past Thunder 105-101

Layne Murdoch Jr. / National Basketball Association / Getty

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Zion Williamson scored 23 points, matched his career high with eight assists and converted a go-ahead three-point play with 44 seconds left to lift the short-handed New Orleans Pelicans to a 105-101 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday night.

With the Pelicans playing without Brandon Ingram and C.J. McCollum, Williamson also had eight rebounds and three blocked shots against a collapsing defense aimed at turning him into a passer. He either scored or assisted on every point in an 11-4 New Orleans run in the third quarter that stretched the Pelicans’ lead to 75-62.

The Pelicans slowed down Shai Gilgeous-Alexander from the floor, but the penetrating guard still scored 31 points on 7-of-21 shooting. He did most of his damage from the foul line, going 16 of 18.

The Pelicans led 93-86 with 5:34 left, but the Thunder got back-to-back 3-pointers from Aleksej Pokusevski and Gilgeous-Alexander to cut the deficit to 95-92. Oklahoma City took a 101-100 lead on Jeremiah Robinson-Earl’s 3-pointer with 51 seconds left, but New Orleans scored the final five points.

Williamson got a three-point play on hard drive and a free throw, and Herb Jones iced the victory with two foul shots with 1.5 seconds left. Trey Murphy added 20 points for New Orleans.

Williamson was consistently double-teamed in the first half but continued to feed his teammates, especially point guard Jose Alvarado. Williamson scored 10 first-half points, and he had six of the Pelicans’ 13 assists in the first two quarters. Alvarado added 10 first-half points.

New Orleans led by as many as nine points late in the second quarter, but Gilgeous-Alexander kept the Thunder within striking distance with 11 first-half points. Oklahoma City shot just 35.3% from the floor (18 of 51) in the first half, and was outscored 32-18 in the paint, normally its strong suit.


Thunder: Coach Mark Daigneault said having several international players on his roster, including second-year G Josh Giddey, is good for the league. “It broadens everybody’s scope when you’ve got international players,” Daigneault said. “It just shows it’s an international game.”

Pelicans: Besides Ingram (left great toe) and McCollum (health and safety protocols), the Pelicans were without F Larry Nance Jr. (right shoulder) and F Naji Marshall. … The Pelicans have won six of eight. … Australian Dyson Daniels squared off against fellow Aussie Giddey for the first time in their NBA careers. The childhood friends both played at the NBA Global Academy in Canberra. … Williamson picked up the first technical foul of his career in the first half.


Thunder: Host San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday.

Pelicans: Host Toronto Raptors on Wednesday in a stretch of six of seven at home.