Playing in their third game in four nights, the New Orleans Pelicans used a strong third quarter to propel themselves to an important home win over one of the best teams in the league.
Philadelphia had no answer for Zion Williamson, as the Pelicans closed out the game in the fourth to run out 101-94 winners.
Let’s jump to some of the takeaways.
Relentless Zion dominates Sixers
By his own lofty standards, Zion Williamson’s 16 points against Brooklyn two nights ago was a down performance. That effort ended a streak of 25 games with 20+ points on 50 percent shooting from the field.
Of course, the 20-year-old wasted absolutely no time beginning a new streak, pouring in 37 points to go along with career-high tallies of 15 rebounds and 8 assists.
It was the 14th time this season that Zion topped 30 points, with the 15 rebounds topping a season high, and the eight assists tying a season-high mark.
Whether it was Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris, Dwight Howard, Joel Embiid, it didn’t matter, Williamson was too strong and too powerful for the Philadelphia defence. His combination of strength and speed overwhelming Philadelphia on repeat as he paraded to the basket before exploding for a number of ferocious dunks.
The exclamation point came with a two-handed slam with 1:08 remaining to give the Pelicans a 100-92 lead. Zion is simply must watch.
Zion Williamson finishes with 37 points, 8 assists (ties career-high), and a career-best 15 rebounds.
Williamson is the second player in franchise history to record at least 37/15/8, joining DeMarcus Cousins.
— Pelicans PR (@PelicansPR) April 10, 2021
Joel Embiid continues to find rhythm
Yes, the Sixers are battling for the top seed in the East, but more than anything, they simply want a healthy Joel Embiid for the postseason run. Making just his third appearance after an extended stint on the sideline with a knee injury, Embiid saw 31 minutes of court time.
Battling foul trouble at stages throughout the night, Embiid finished with just 14 points and nine rebounds on 5-for-16 from the floor.
Locked in a battle with the physical Steven Adams for a lot of the night, Embiid still displayed his ridiculous soft touch on his turnaround jumper on a number of occassions. On a night where only four Sixers finished in double-digits, a quiet night for Embiid was symptomatic of the Sixers offensive struggles.
Old school basketball
With the scores locked at 50 heading into halftime, the Pelicans broadcast joked that it was “retro basketball in the big easy”.
As it turned out, they weren’t far off the mark, with a physical defensive struggle continuing into the final 24 minutes of play.
Pounding the ball down low with much success – largely in part to Williamson – the Pelicans scored 66 of their 101 points in the paint. In a throwback to the 90’s New Orleans remarkably finished with just four 3-point makes for the game.
It was just the second time this season that a team won a game with four or fewer 3-point makes, joining the Los Angeles Lakers January win over Chicago.
Nasty fall for Zion
A scary moment came with 9:49 left in the fourth quarter for Williamson.
Exploding to the basket in trademark fashion, Williamson was fouled hard in midair by Dwight Howard. Landing hard on his side, Williamson spent some time on the floor to gather himself, before walking away uninjured.
A flagrant foul was called on Howard for the act, as Pelicans fans breathed a sigh of relief that the franchise superstar was ok.
Jaxon Hayes making his mark
Adding 12 points and six rebounds, it was an eye-catching performance from Hayes, who used his athleticism to fly up and down the floor and get out behind the Sixers defence in transition. While Lonzo Ball was absent, Zion’s ability to throw full court passes makes Hayes a transition threat on a Pelicans team that likes to get out and run.
Still just 20 years old, Hayes development continues to be a pleasant addition to the young Pelicans core.
The road trip will continue in Oklahoma City tomorrow for Philadelphia, while the Pelicans will have one night off before heading to Cleveland to play the Cavaliers.
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