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Zion Leads Shorthanded Pelicans vs. Thunder

Zion Williamson was called for his first professional technical foul in leading the New Orleans Pelicans to a win over the Oklahoma City Thunder.
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NEW ORLEANS, La Zion Williamson flirted with a triple-double and was called for his first professional technical foul in leading the New Orleans Pelicans to a 105-101 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. Willie Green's squad was shorthanded with four regular contributors missing in action but the Pelicans found a way to finish the night just one game out of first place in the Western Conference.

New Orleans scored their first 12 points with shots coming directly at the rim but faced a four-point deficit at the 7:00 mark of the first quarter. Jones Valanciunas picked up two quick fouls and Williamson received his first technical foul as an NBA player in a frustrating first quarter for New Orleans. However, a Herb Jones three-pointer then sparked a 10-0 coming out of the first commercial break.

The home team led 34-26 going into the second quarter. Still, it was an all-hands-on-deck kind of victory as Brandon Ingram (toe), CJ McCollum (health and safety protocols), Larry Nance Jr. (shoulder), and Naji Marshall (non-COVID illness) were all ruled out of the game by the Pelicans. Williamson led the way with 10 points, 6 assists, and 5 rebounds on 5/8 shooting in the first half. Jose Alvarado also had 10 points at halftime. 

Williamson (23 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists, 3 blocks, 1 steal) found a way to make things work down the stretch. Point Zion set a career-high for assists and stretched the lead with a lineup consisting of Devonte' Graham, Dyson Daniels, Garrett Temple, and Willy Hernangomez. 

Trey Murphy III (20 points, 6 rebounds) helped pick up the scoring slack with McCollum and Ingram sidelined but Williamson's work got a ton of credit for the win from Willie Green in the post game press conference.

Williamson converted a go-ahead three-point play with 44 seconds left to lift the short-handed Pelicans. He had the energy to secure the victory even after scoring or assisting on every point in an 11-4 run in the third quarter which gave New Orleans a 75-62 lead.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led Oklahoma City with 31 points on 7-of-21 shooting. The Thunder star made 16 of 18 free-throws to keep the game close. The visitors held a brief 101-100 lead on Jeremiah Robinson-Earl’s 3-pointer with 51 seconds left but the Pelicans scored the final five points.

Williamson earned an and-1 three-point play in the final minute to get to the line for his only free shot. Herb Jones sealed the win with a smart inbounds play followed by two foul shots with 1.5 seconds left.

New Orleans have won six of their last 8 games and will play five of its next six at home in the Smoothie King Center. Next up is a visit from the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday before traveling to face the San Antonio Spurs.

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