Zion Williamson, Lonzo Ball Electric as Pelicans Cruise Past Devin Booker, Suns

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistFebruary 4, 2021

New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson (1) dunks over Phoenix Suns forward Frank Kaminsky (8) in the third quarter of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. (AP Photo/Derick Hingle)
Derick Hingle/Associated Press

The New Orleans Pelicans finally got their second win against a Western Conference foe in 2021.

New Orleans snapped a two-game losing streak with a 123-101 victory over the Phoenix Suns in Wednesday's showdown at Smoothie King Center. Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball led the way for the victors, who were just 1-8 against Western Conference teams since Dec. 31 until they improved to 8-12 on the season with this win.

A solid showing from Devin Booker was not enough for the Suns, who saw their three-game winning streak come to an end as they fell to 11-9 on the campaign.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

ZION ONE-HANDED ALLEY-OOP 😤 (via @PelicansNBA) https://t.co/qcpuzQAov8


Notable Player Stats

  • Zion Williamson, F, NO: 28 PTS, 7 REB, 6 AST, 12-of-14 FG
  • Brandon Ingram, F, NO: 23 PTS, 6 AST, 4 REB
  • Lonzo Ball, G, NO: 18 PTS, 6 REB
  • Steven Adams, C, NO: 11 PTS, 13 REB, 4 AST
  • Devin Booker, G, PHO: 25 PTS, 4 REB
  • Deandre Ayton, C, PHO: 13 PTS, 11 REB


Zion Williamson Leads Balanced, Dominant Effort for Pelicans

There haven't been many positives for the Pelicans this season, but Williamson has been a bright spot.

The 2019 No. 1 overall pick is playing more minutes than he did as a rookie, and he looks like a franchise cornerstone in the making. His dominance was on full display out of the gates Wednesday, as he poured in 15 points in the first quarter and 19 points by halftime while battling for boards as well.

Phoenix had no answer for his explosiveness and physicality around the rim, and the Duke product overpowered his way to his spots and carried the Pelicans offense for extended stretches.

FOXSports NewOrleans @FOXSportsNOLA

Zion's been doing a lot of THIS so far on his way to a 1️⃣5️⃣-point first quarter... 👀 #WontBowDown | @PelicansNBA https://t.co/YHurTfDATV

New Orleans Pelicans @PelicansNBA

Zion up to 19 points (8-9 FGs)! 📺: @FoxSportsNOLA | ESPN https://t.co/w8UIvojiHP

New Orleans Pelicans @PelicansNBA

😄 https://t.co/kIn0RqY5da https://t.co/0FPzhouqET

New Orleans Pelicans @PelicansNBA

ZION FOR 3️⃣ up to 22 points on 9-10 FGs 📺: @FoxSportsNOLA | ESPN https://t.co/AQX0BvzgzU

New Orleans Pelicans @PelicansNBA

UP TOP TO ZION! 🔥 📺: @FoxSportsNOLA | ESPN https://t.co/zcvyoFtSLU

New Orleans Pelicans @PelicansNBA

11-12 for Zion - 26 points! #WBD https://t.co/IoMDKDOIKa

It was the Zion show early, but New Orleans seized control and extended its lead to double digits in the third quarter when everyone else got involved. Ingram unleashed his smooth mid-range shot and got to the line while attacking the basket, Ball started draining three-pointers, and Steven Adams battled for offensive boards to keep possessions alive.

Williamson mixed in a three-pointer and alley-oop slam for good measure as the Pelicans played with the type of balanced offense that they've lacked at times this season.

The pattern continued in the fourth with Josh Hart and JJ Redick providing a boost off the bench, hot shooting from the usual suspects and Williamson adding yet another highlight dunk off a lob.

On Wednesday, the Pelicans looked like a team that could climb back into the playoff picture. They have two go-to options in Williamson and Ingram and a supporting cast with veteran talent and young playmakers. 

If their victory over the Suns was any indication, they will make some noise as the 2020-21 campaign continues.


Outside Shooting Goes Missing for Suns in Defeat

The Suns are looking to make the playoffs for the first time since the 2009-10 campaign, and playoff teams work through adversity. That is exactly what they did when Booker missed four games prior to his return Monday.

Deandre Ayton and Chris Paul combined for five double-doubles in Booker's absence, and they turned things up a notch when he returned for the win over the Dallas Mavericks. Paul just missed a triple-double with 34 points, nine assists and nine rebounds, while Ayton finished with 10 points and 17 rebounds.

Paul and Ayton underscored the offensive versatility of a Suns team that is not solely reliant on Booker, and Phoenix needed that versatility Wednesday when it shot an abysmal 4-of-21 from deep in the first half.

Phoenix Suns @Suns

The bucket that passed Thunder Dan for 10th all-time in Suns career points #BeLegendary (he's 24 years old) https://t.co/vlRxUg3O9d

Phoenix Suns @Suns

HOW CAM?!? 🤯 https://t.co/purwPqrolN

Phoenix Suns @Suns

.@CP3's smooth with it https://t.co/qEjBlsyFs5

Phoenix Suns @Suns

Midrange game 💯 https://t.co/8Rfxsz4z9D

Despite those shooting struggles, the Suns were down only two at halftime. Paul and the guards started to work the ball down low to Ayton, and the entire team locked in defensively to prevent the Pelicans from creating too much separation in the midst of their cold shooting.

Perhaps sensing the need for more offense, Booker started seeking out his shot in the third quarter with timely drives and jumpers in the lane even though his three-pointers weren't falling.

However, the defense that kept the Suns within striking distance in the first half went missing after the intermission. They allowed 40 points in the third quarter and fell behind by more than 20 in the opening minutes of the fourth.

Along with the abysmal outside shooting (8-of-35 from deep), that was a recipe for a blowout loss. 


What's Next?

Both teams are in action Friday when the Suns host the Detroit Pistons and the Pelicans travel to face the Indiana Pacers.