Zion Williamson had 21 points and 12 rebounds in his return, and the New Orleans Pelicans pulled away in the second half to rout the Los Angeles Clippers 112-91 on Sunday.
CJ McCollum added 22 points for the Pelicans, who’ve won four of their first six games. Williamson was out the last two games with a right hip and lower back contusion, one of three starters to have missed the last two games.
“Still a little sore, man,” Williamson said. “I’ve taken a lot of falls, but I ain’t never had a fall like that one. But it was fine enough for me to play. Unless I’m truly injured, I’m going to be playing the game of basketball. That’s just how I am.”
Williamson had seven assists, one off his career high.
“We got some special shooters on this team,” Williamson said. “I’m able to find them and they knock the shots down.”
Pelicans coach Willie Green was glad to have Williamson back on the floor.
“When he touches the ball, he makes the right play, whether it’s to score for himself, finding his teammates or kicking it out, setting screens, continuing to move,” Green said. “He was fantastic.”
Norman Powell had 18 points off the bench for the Clippers. Paul George added 14 points and Marcus Morris had 12. With Kawhi Leonard again sidelined, the Clippers dropped their fourth in a row.
“We just got to do some things better,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said. “We’re not a very good basketball team now and we got to change that.”
Naji Marshall stole Amir Coffey’s bad pass and streaked down court to score in the game’s closing minutes, waving goodbye to the Clippers fans who hadn’t already bailed out.
“His confidence is growing,” Green said. “He’s getting more minutes because of circumstances. He spearheaded our defense with his ability to guard multiple guys, starting with Paul George.”
Williamson and McCollum combined to score 10 straight to open the third, giving New Orleans a 62-54 lead.
“We felt we were in a good position to come out and make a run in the third quarter, simply by just more effort, making sure we’re sound defensively on our coverages, contesting shots and then trying to play a bit faster,” Green said.
Reggie Jackson scored seven in a row to draw the Clippers within one before the Pelicans got going again. Larry Nance Jr. hit a 3-pointer and Williamson followed with a dunk. Williamson closed the period by completing a three-point play that sent the Pelicans into the fourth leading 78-67.
The Pelicans have been a force in the paint through their first six games, ranking second in the league with 56 points. They had that many against the Clippers.
The Pelicans were 15 of 36 from 3-point range, hitting five in the fourth. The Clippers were just 11 of 39 from long distance.
Trailing by 11 points, the Pelicans outscored the Clippers 17-9 to close the second and pull into a 52-all tie at halftime.
Pelicans: Starters Herb Jones (right knee hyperextension) and Brandon Ingram (concussion protocols) each missed their third straight game.
Clippers: Leonard missed his fourth game with knee stiffness and he won’t play Monday either.
A fan chattered during Pelicans free throws that all Williamson does is dunk.
“They can say what they want, but I’m glad we got the dub,” he said, smiling.
Pelicans: After two days off, visit the Lakers on Wednesday.
Clippers: Host the Houston Rockets on Monday in the second game of a back-to-back.
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