New Orleans, LA—The Pelicans are bringing in the right pieces for New Orleans to compete in the Western Conference. And everything starts around Zion Williamson.
Zion, who on Tuesday was named an All-Star for the first time in his career, was a force on the blocks. The forward scored 32 points on 18 shots with five assists. His sidekick Brandon Ingram chipped in 27, helped the Pelicans beat the Pistons 128-118 at Smoothie King Center on Wednesday night.
“It was a dual feeling,” Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy said about Williamson’s first-ever All-Star selection. “I was excited for Zion and disappointed for Brandon. It was sort of balanced out a little bit.”
The Pelicans got revenge for its loss to the Pistons on Valentine’s Day. They mustered two wins on the back half of its four-game homestand. New Orleans is 14-17 with five games remaining until the All-Star break.
Detroit started rolling early in the game, shooting 58.3% in the first quarter and leading by 10 points early in the second. The Pistons hit seven 3s in the first quarter. It led the Pelicans by five points at halftime (43-33).
Williamson made 13 of his 18 shots in reaching the 30-point plateau for the eighth time this season.
“He’s a generational talent where you don’t know what you’re going to get from him every single night; it’s going to be something different. It’s going to be something exciting,” said Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram.
The Pistons got 36 first-half points from reserves including 10 from Josh Jackson and nine from Svi Mykhailiuk on three 3s.
Detroit was up by seven points late in the third before Williamson scored on a dribble drive in the final seconds of the quarter to make it 69-64.
“They are both very unselfish,” Van Gundy said. “I think they take very seriously trying to make the game easier for their teammates. When you can be aggressively unselfish, that’s when you are at your best. To just stand out there and not do anything, that’s one thing. But to attack and be willing to make the play when people come, that’s what you’re looking for. That’s what the best players do. And that’s what those guys have been doing.”
Steve Adams poured in 14 points and grabbed 15 boards in his first action since missing two games with a ankle injury. His putback gave New Orleans a 121-111 lead with 2:15 left in the game.
The Pelicans’ strong finish came after they’d trailed most of the first three quarters before turning it on, the Pistons’ bid to win two road games in consecutive nights.
Jackson scored 25 points, and Mason Plumlee chipped in 21 for the Pistons. Saban Lee and Saddiq Bey each scored 13 points.
“We couldn’t buy shots at the right time, but I was overall pleased with our approach,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. “For whatever reason, we ran out of gas down the stretch.”
Detroit: Fell to 3-15 on the road. Wayne Ellington started after resting a night earlier in Orlando. He had seven points and three assists in 24 minutes, missing six of seven 3-point attempts. Mykhailiuk finished with 12 points and Dennis Smith Jr. scored 12. Sekou Doumbouya was limited to 22 minutes in part because he was called for his fifth foul half way through the third quarter. The Pistons went 13 of 37 from 3-point range.
New Orleans: Josh Hart led Pelicans reserves with 11 points. Starting guards Eric Bledsoe and Ball each scored 10 points. Ball also added eight assists. The Pelicans shot 55.6% (50 of 90), including 10 of 23 from downtown. New Orleans outscored Detroit 74-60 in the paint and outscored the Pistons 26-13 on fast breaks.