NEW ORLEANS — — 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.