Williamson scores season-high 32, Pelicans defeat Clippers 116-106 in the In-Season Tournament

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Zion Williamson scored a season-high 32 points, Brandon Ingram added 30 and the New Orleans Pelicans finished group play in the NBA In-Season Tournament on a winning note, defeating the Los Angeles Clippers 116-106 on Friday night.

Williamson scored nine points in the final 12 minutes as the Pelicans improved to 3-1 in West Group B play. Houston is 2-1 in the group but would take the top spot in the group with a win over Dallas on Tuesday by virtue of its win over New Orleans earlier in the tournament.

New Orleans also extended its winning streak to three and has won five of its last six.

“The In-Season Tournament is a great stepping stone for us,” said Williamson, who also had six rebounds and five assists. “We haven’t won anything, so this is good to see where we stand with something on the line.”

Paul George scored 34 points while Norman Powell and Kawhi Leonard had 20 apiece for the Clippers, who had a three-game winning streak snapped. Los Angeles was 1-3 in group play.

A free throw by Russell Westbrook got the Clippers within 87-86 before the Pelicans took control with a 20-8 run over a five-minute span. Herb Jones scored nine of his 14 points during the spurt and Ingram added six.

The Clippers made a final surge and cut the deficit to 114-110, but Williamson provided the clinching points with his putback layup with 34.1 seconds remaining.

“Those two guys are extremely important to our entire group. And when they’re healthy playing at a high level, we have a chance to compete with any team,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said. “They’re doing a good job of playing off each other.”

Los Angeles trailed 56-55 at halftime but scored the first seven points of the third quarter to take its first lead of the game. The Pelicans trailed 79-77 with three minutes remaining, but went on a 8-4 run at the end of the quarter to take an 85-83 lead going into the fourth.

Ingram had 16 points in the first 10 minutes, including 10 straight points during a 14-0 run, as the Pelicans raced out to a 33-12 lead. The Clippers closed out the quarter on an 11-3 run to trail 36-23 after 12 minutes.

“Usually it is a different air when I am back in LA,” said Ingram, who is used to the confines of Crypto.Com Arena after being drafted and playing his first three seasons with the Lakers before being traded to New Orleans as part of the Anthony Davis trade in 2019. “There are some familiar rims. It feels like a shooter’s gym and it feels good.”

New Orleans pushed its advantage to 47-30 on back-to-back 3-pointers by Jordan Hawkins, but the Clippers outscored the Pelicans 25-9 over the final eight minutes to get within one at halftime. George scored eight during the run and Leonard added seven.

“Brandon always gets off to a fast start and gets us behind the eight ball every game. I just thought offensively we didn’t get into a good rhythm. I thought we had a nasty flow all night,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said.


Pelicans: Head to Utah for two straight games starting Saturday.

Clippers: Host the Dallas Mavericks Saturday.


AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/nba

Sports writer based in Los Angeles.