The New Orleans Pelicans made incredibly quick work of an opponent early again.
Oh, and Zion Williamson was as unstoppable from start to finish as he’s been in a really, really long time.
The Pelicans jumped out to an 18-4 lead over the San Antonio Spurs, which grew to a 66-47 halftime advantage, before coasting to the eventual 129-110 victory.
Jonas Valanciunas, who started a perfect 7 for 7 from the field, and Williamson each had 17 points at intermission, but Devonte’ Graham was the leader in the clubhouse at the break with 18 points.
There were also playmaking fireworks witnessed in the first 24 minutes, with Brandon Ingram (six assists) and Jose Alvarado (seven assists) combining for 13 dimes.
San Antonio stayed feisty in the second half to keep things respectable enough — Devin Vassell and Doug McDermott are as-advertised shooters, but New Orleans showed why they far outclass this Coach Popovich-led team overall.
If you’re a Spurs fan though, don’t overly fret. There is a good chance that San Antonio will be in the thick of the hunt for either Victor Wembanyama or Scoot Henderson. The Spurs are honestly just not very good and should finish with one of the worst records in the league.
Back to the Pelicans … actually, back to himZion put the phenom in phenomenal.
Williamson had 30 points and 10 rebounds before the end of the third quarter — marking the fifth time in his career that he’s posted those numbers or better together in a game — and finished with 32 points, 11 rebounds and two steals.
“Zion was a monster from start to finish, driving the ball, kicking it out to his teammates, taking advantage of mismatches, and defensively, I thought he was really solid tonight,” Willie Green said. “He was just in the right spots, communicating, switching with contact — all the things that we work on. So, monster game by Z tonight.”
He had a slew of acrobatic finishes near the rim, showing off that touch which has been missing for large parts of this season. No surprise, he made 14 of his 18 field goal attempts, with two of those misses coming from behind the 3-point line.
More impressively, Williamson connected on his final 11 shot attempts, placing his performance into the franchise record books.
From @EliasSports: Most consecutive makes in a single game in Pels history:
– 13, Zion Williamson, 1/17/21 vs. Kings
– 12, Zion Williamson, 2/12/21 vs. Mavs
– 12, Willie Green, 4/8/11 vs. Suns
– 11, Zion Williamson, tonight vs. Spurs
– 11, Zion Williamson, 2/16/21 vs. Grizzlies
— Andrew Lopez (@_Andrew_Lopez) November 24, 2022
Jonas Valanciunas notched a double-double as well, finishing with 22 points and 10 rebounds. He also hit 4 of 5 from behind the arc.
Brandon Ingram, who scored only two points in the first half, really rounded out his line nicely afterwards, posting 17 points (he scored 15 points in the third quarter), three rebounds and 10 assists.
Off the bench, Devonte’ Graham shone for a second straight contest, scoring 21 points while knocking down the same 6 of 11 3-balls as he did against the Warriors.
Herb Jones scored nine points, Jose Alvarado had five points, nine assists and three steals in place of CJ McCollum in the starting lineup, and Larry Nance Jr. had six points, two rebounds and two assists.
“First and foremost, it’s just such a blessing to coach these guys,” Green said. “They’re fun to be around. It’s hard to win in the NBA, especially coming into this building. The things that I mentioned to them, we’ve got to continue to set the standard of who we want to be and what we want to achieve.
“Defensively, I thought we started the game with the right mindset. We held it throughout the course of the game, which is hard to do. And it’s just simple, keeping teams out of the paint, contesting shots, rebounding the ball, communicating defensively. So I’m proud of our guys for how we played defensively tonight.”
It’s been a while since the Pelicans put four games over .500.
One needs to go all the way back to the start of the 2018-19 season, when New Orleans won the first four games out of the gates. Of course, things spiraled out of control soon afterwards, with Anthony Davis making his trade request public.
So, it’s a good thing that we finally are able to erase that memory somewhat by not needing to refer to that campaign for this purpose again.
The Pelicans will fly home tonight and enjoy Thanksgiving with their families tomorrow in New Orleans, before getting into Memphis for a matchup against the Grizzlies on Friday.
For fun Pelicans talk, subscribe to The Bird Calls podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @OlehKosel.