Zion dominates on both ends in Pelicans’ win over Raptors
Rookie Dyson Daniels nears triple-double with increased playing time
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Down two starters for a second straight game, the Pelicans were shorthanded in the Smoothie King Center again on Wednesday (Nov. 30) night but there were no signs of limitations as they blew past the Raptors, a top 10 team in the East, 126-108.
The Pelicans remain top 3 in the West and improve to 13-8.
Zion Williamson was dominant on both ends of the floor, scoring 33 points on just 15 shot attempts, and filling up the box score with 10 reb, 5 ast, 4 steals, and 2 blocks. Another area where Zion was more effective in Wednesday’s win was at the foul line, earning 6 trips to go 9-of-12.
As efficient as Zion was in the game, the Pelicans kept mostly a sizable lead until Toronto made enough of a run to whittle down a 31-point deficit midway through the third quarter to an 11-point gap (113-102) with 5:30 left to go.
But then, just as he had all game, Zion happened.
The Pelicans then went on an 8-0 run that was ignited when Zion blocked Raptors forward Pascal Siakam’s layup attempt and finished the following Pelican fast break on the other end of the floor with a dunk. Zion went on to get steals on the next two Raptor possessions, which led to another dunk and a layup finish for rookie Dyson Daniels, who got close to a triple-double (14 pts, 8 reb, 9 ast) with increased playing time in the absence of starters Brandon Ingram and C.J. McCollum.
The Pelicans extended their lead to 121-102 with 3:24 remaining when Zion quickly put back his own missed shot.
Pelicans coach Willie Green praised his star’s activity in the 8-0 eruption.
“That was a huge moment in the game,” Green said. “They had cut it to (11) points, and it was sort of ‘time, score, situation.’ Zion just knew, ‘All right, I need to take over the game,’ and he did it on both ends. We knew that his athletic ability offensively is impressive. But to go up and get some blocks, to grab the rebound and take it full court and get to the basket, get to the foul line — those are things great players do.”
The run grabbed the attention of the Raptors tasked with defending him as well.
“He got whatever he wanted tonight,” Siakam said postgame.
While Zion is the team’s current leading scorer with an average of 23.1 ppg, there was noticeably different energy from him Wednesday night. Looking lighter with an extra spring in his step, Zion appeared more like the version of himself the world saw in his sophomore season, only faster, stronger, and leaner. It was the most he’s looked in step with a team that has found consistency under the reign of Green.
In the postgame, Zion said that he feels like he’s started to tap into the player he was before the injury.
“From a ballhandling aspect, yes,” Zion said. “When you have players like B.I. and C.J. out you have to pick up where they left off. And I have to thank coach for trusting me to be myself.”
Zion also said that he plays the game with a point guard’s mindset, despite lining up at power forward a majority of the time, and he noted that he and Green discussed making an effort to push the ball in transition on defensive rebounds before the game.
“Coach did make an emphasis...you get the rebound, push it,” Zion said. “Push it and force the defense to make quick decisions.”
The second leading scorer for the Pelicans, Trey Murphy III, who’s been playing on a hot streak, was one of those teammates that benefitted from getting shots in transition. He scored 26 points, making 6-of-12 shots from beyond the arc, and he grabbed 5 rebounds.
Starting center Jonas Valanciunas had a double-double with 16 points and 13 rebounds.
Gary Trent Jr. had 35 points for Toronto.
The Pelicans travel to San Antonio tomorrow to take on the Spurs at 7 p.m.
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