Zion Williamson Continues Hot Streak with 24 Points in Pelicans' Win over Cavs

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorFebruary 29, 2020

NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 28: Zion Williamson #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans handles the ball against the Cleveland Cavaliers on February 28, 2020 at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, Louisiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2020 NBAE (Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images)
Layne Murdoch Jr./Getty Images

The New Orleans Pelicans used a 43-point first quarter to cruise to a 116-104 win over the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers at Smoothie King Center on Friday.

The Pels never led by fewer than 12 points after outscoring the Cavs 43-25 in the first. Three Pelicans scored 22 or more points, led by Brandon Ingram's 29 on 11-of-19 shooting.

Zion Williamson dropped 24 points at an 11-of-16 clip, and he has now averaged 28.2 points per game in his last six. Jrue Holiday contributed 22 points thanks to a 10-of-16 night.

Collin Sexton led the Cavs and all scorers with 31 points on 11-of-20 shooting (6-of-10 from three-point range). Four other Cavs scored in double digits, led by Kevin Porter Jr.'s 16 off the bench.

The 26-33 Pels have won six of their last eight. The 17-42 Cavs had won four of their past five games heading into Friday but finished the night tied for last in the Eastern Conference with the New York Knicks.

      

Notable Performances

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Pelicans F Brandon Ingram: 29 PTS, 7 REB, 6 AST

Pelicans F Zion Williamson: 24 PTS, 3 REB, 2 STL

Pelicans G Jrue Holiday: 22 PTS, 6 AST, 2 STL

Cavaliers G Collin Sexton: 31 PTS, 4 REB, 3 AST

Cavaliers F Kevin Porter Jr.: 16 PTS, 5 REB, 5 AST

Cavaliers G Darius Garland: 15 PTS, 3 AST, 2 REB

     

Pelicans Run Past Cavs and Inch Closer to Playoffs 

The Pels' ability to score points at a rapid-fire pace is a real problem against any team, and the Eastern Conference's last-place Cavs were the latest to fall to their speed and power.

It's not easy for anyone to deal with a 6'6", 285-pound big man who has no problem running up and down the court. It's harder when he's paired with an excellent distributor capable of finding him anywhere.

On Friday, Lonzo Ball casually tossed a Hail Mary chest pass to Williamson for an easy two in mere seconds:

Ball also found the big man for another easy two on the break:

New Orleans outscored Cleveland 23-16 on fast-break opportunities, but the Cavs had a hard time keeping up with its speed in the half court as well.

Furthermore, the Pels are capable of turning defense into points in seconds:

They moved the ball so well Friday that they set a team record for assists in a quarter, per ESPN's Andrew Lopez:

Stopping their offense is a near-impossible task with Williamson on the court. New Orleans is now 8-6 in games in which he has played and 18-27 otherwise, but the losses are largely a product of the team's tough recent schedule and defensive struggles.

Ultimately, Williamson has been better than advertised and set an historical mark Friday:

And now the Pels find themselves in a good spot for the playoffs.

They sit two games behind the slumping Memphis Grizzlies for the eighth and final Western postseason spot following their win plus Memphis' home loss to the Sacramento Kings.

They are set to play the Grizz two more times. Wins would give New Orleans a 4-0 season sweep over Memphis as well as the tiebreaker if the two teams finished knotted in the standings. 

Memphis is in a free-fall by virtue of a five-game losing streak, and New Orleans has put itself in a position where it controls its own destiny.

Sneaking into the No. 8 seed would likely result in a date with LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers, who lead the West at 45-12.

That would be an epic series between the player who carried the league's torch for a decade-and-a-half and the one who may be the recipient when James retires. Until then, the Pels' powerful offense has them in position to return to the playoffs for the first time in two years.

     

What's Next?

The Pels will host the West-leading Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday at 8 p.m. ET. The Cavs will welcome the Indiana Pacers to Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse on Saturday at 8 p.m.

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