Basketball / NBA

Zion explodes for 31 to guide Pelicans to win

AP

Zion Williamson has recorded his first 30-point performance just nine games into his NBA career.

Williamson scored 31 points in barely 28 minutes on the court, and the New Orleans Pelicans used a dominant second half to defeat the Portland Trail Blazers 138-117 on Tuesday night.

“I expect to make an impact but I don’t expect to do nothing like this,” Williamson said in his usual, grinning, affable manner. “I just kind of look to come in, just kind of fit in, just not try to mess up, but my teammates and coaches are always pushing me.”

“I do hold myself to high expectations, but I think it’s just finding the line between reality and dreams,” Williamson added. “If my teammates find me, they find me. If not, just got to make another play, get the rebound and just play defense.”

Williamson used his 6-foot-6, 285-pound (198-cm, 129-kg) frame, quick feet and explosive vertical to have his way with every defender Portland tried against him. Williamson was either too strong, too fast, or both. He mixed spinning dribbles and sudden baseline drives into his usual arsenal of soaring transition dunks and tenacious putbacks. Six of his nine rebounds came on the offensive end.

“I don’t really think he’s comparable to anyone that I have seen,” Portland forward Carmelo Anthony said of Williamson. “Someone who is as powerful as that, who jumps like that . . . you can tell he’s getting better and getting a feel for the game.”

JJ Redick scored 20 for New Orleans, which trailed by as many as 16 in the first quarter before taking command en route to a third straight victory. Josh Hart’s 17 points included an alley-oop dunk set up by Williamson’s lob in transition.

“It’s kind of scary to see how good he is this early,” Hart said.

Jrue Holiday contributed 16 points and 10 assists for New Orleans, while Lonzo Ball added 10 points and 10 assists.

Portland star Damian Lillard scored 20 points — less than half of his 42-point average over his previous 10 games. But his playing time was limited in the fourth quarter when the Pelicans, who led by as many as 26, had put the game out of reach.

Wizards 126, Bulls 114

In Washington, Bradley Beal scored 30 points, and the Wizards held off Zach LaVine and the Bulls for the victory.

Rui Hachimura added 20 points for Washington, which won for the fourth time in six games. Hachimura has scored in double figures in each of his four games since returning from a groin injury, which required a minor surgical procedure, that caused him to miss 23 games.

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