The New Orleans Pelicans were not expected to hang around in the playoff chase for the Western Conference this season, but they have been in striking distance for awhile now. On Sunday, the Pelicans got an unexpected boost from Zion Williamson to keep them in the hunt, as the rookie phenom had an incredible overtime performance. Williamson scored a career-high 37 points and added 10 rebounds in a 125-123 overtime victory over the Phoenix Suns, which helped the Pelicans move a half-game ahead of the Oklahoma City Thunder for the final playoff spot in the West.
The New Orleans Pelicans earned a much-needed win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday. The Pelicans needed the victory more than the Sixers, as New Orleans looked to stay in the playoff hunt while Philadelphia was looking to find out more about their young talent. New Orleans’ star Zion Williamson took over in overtime, scoring 17 points in the extra period. Williamson fouled out after scoring 32 points and grabbing 12 rebounds in 48 minutes. The Pelicans’ star-studded frontcourt of Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday was too much for the Sixers to handle, as they combined for 63 points (28 for Davis, 35 for Holiday) and 34 rebounds (17 for Davis, 17 for Holiday). The Pelicans’ victory was not without a cost
2. May 2021
After seeing their playoff hopes dashed late in the fourth quarter Saturday night against the Minnesota Timberwolves, the New Orleans Pelicans leaned on Zion Williamson, Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram to keep fighting.
Trailing by 10 points with four minutes left to play, the Pelicans forced overtime with a 14-4 run in which Williamson scored seven of his 37 points to lead the Pelicans to a 140-136 victory.
A loss on Saturday would put the Pelicans four games out of the playoff picture with eight games to go. Instead, they will drop to three spots before facing the Golden State Warriors, who are in eighth place, on Monday night.
I think it gives us a lot of momentum, said Williamson, who contributed nine rebounds and eight assists. We won. The locker room is all we care about. We won and that allows us to go home with a lot of momentum and hopefully we can keep that momentum.
Ball scored 33 points and made eight three-pointers, while adding 11 rebounds and eight assists.
According to a study by the Elias Sports Bureau, Williamson and Ball became the fifth duo in NBA history to score at least 30 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in a game.
There are a lot of guys on this team that have that fight, that dog in them, Ball said. It showed tonight and we went into the extension with a great save from Z. And then he let us play extra time and we won.
Ingram also came on in the final moments of an otherwise cold night (4 on 17 pitches). Just before the end of the two minutes, Ingram suffered two double faults, cutting the lead to four, while Jaden McDaniels also committed an error.
After Willie Hernangomez tied the score with 21.9 seconds left, Williamson helped convert D’Angelo Russell’s missed three-point attempt, ending the game in overtime.
That’s the outcome the Pelicans were hoping for Wednesday night, when they also came back from a small deficit and nearly reached overtime – but an unaccounted-for shot attempt by Williamson led to a two-point win for the Denver Nuggets.
This time Williamson brought things into overtime, fouling Karl-Anthony Towns and Naze Reed to extend the Pelicans’ lead to six points with 1:38 to play and give New Orleans the lead.
We didn’t get the result we wanted in the Denver game, but we fought to the end, Williamson said. That’s the attitude we need to take to the last [eight] games. We have to take it one game at a time and play to the buzzer.
According to ESPN Stats and Information, teams played with a 10-point lead 7-637 in the final four minutes of the regular season. The win in New Orleans was the eighth.
With a win, the Pelicans can focus on the Warriors on Monday. They should try to beat Stephen Curry and company three times in their last eight games.
Our fate depends on no one else. We have to go out there and win, Williamson said. For the situation we are in now, it couldn’t be better. Destiny is in our hands and we just have to make it happen.
The Pelicans (29-35) are three games behind the Warriors (32-32) and the Spurs (31-31), but with San Antonio at an advantage over New Orleans and three games left against Golden State, a win over the Warriors is the most realistic path to the playoffs.
Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy said the team plans to treat each of its remaining games as the most important of the year.
That’s the right approach, because we can’t afford to lose much, Van Gundy said. Of course we’re playing Golden State, so everyone will be focused on that. But if you give the game away today, it will become increasingly inaccessible.
New Orleans hopes to build on Saturday’s comeback in Monday’s game.
Monday we’ll be ready to win, Ball said. We’re not really focused on Tuesday. We have to take things as they come. We can’t look ahead. We need to focus on the first game on Monday, win and move on.
It helps a lot that we are in control of our own destiny. We don’t have to worry about others. Everything depends on us. We have three games against them. It won’t be easy at all. We know this is a difficult task. But it is possible. And that’s all we can ask for: a chance. So we’ll be ready on Monday.