In a stunning display of dominance, the New Orleans Pelicans surged past the Philadelphia 76ers with a decisive 124-114 victory at the Smoothie King Center on Wednesday night. This impressive win broke the Pelicans' two-game losing streak and elevated their season record above .500, signaling a promising turn in their campaign.
The spotlight shone brightly on Zion Williamson, who etched his name in the NBA annals with a historic 33-point extravaganza. Williamson achieved a remarkable feat, becoming the first player in franchise history to execute 11/11 field goals in a single game flawlessly.
This performance ranks as the fifth-highest point total in NBA history achieved without a single miss from the field. His impeccable form faltered only once at the free-throw line. In a pre-game development, the 76ers announced that Joel Embiid, the reigning MVP, would be sidelined due to illness.
This absence was keenly felt as the Pelicans capitalized on this opportunity. Jonas Valanciunas, with a notable 10-point contribution in the first quarter, helped the team amass 20 points in the paint. The return of CJ McCollum also bolstered the Pelicans' lineup.
McCollum, playing for the first time since early November, added eight points, including two three-pointers. The first quarter saw the Pelicans establish a formidable 16-point lead, leaving the 76ers struggling to keep pace.
Maxey's Effort, Pelicans Lead
The 76ers' Tyrese Maxey tried to rally his team with seven points in the opening quarter. However, the Pelicans faced a setback when Jose Alvarado sustained an ankle injury. Despite this, Alvarado made a commendable return in the third quarter.
The Pelicans' shooting accuracy was exceptional, with a 77% success rate from the field, culminating in a 39-24 advantage by the end of the first quarter. The Pelicans continued their offensive onslaught in the second quarter, extending their lead to 24 points.
Four players reached double figures, led by Williamson's 16 points. The Sixers were restricted to 24 points for the quarter, while the Pelicans excelled at free throws, shooting an impressive 87% and leading 68-48 at halftime.
The third quarter saw the Pelicans' lead balloon to 29 points, with Williamson unstoppable at 10/10 from the field. Maxey fought valiantly for the Sixers, scoring 12 points in the quarter, but the Pelicans maintained a commanding 102-81 lead entering the final quarter.
Philadelphia mounted a late challenge, cutting the deficit to 116-104 with three minutes remaining. This forced the Pelicans to reintroduce their starters to secure the win. The 76ers capitalized on New Orleans' 21 turnovers, converting these into 24 points.
Nonetheless, the Pelicans' performance was marked by several positives. Dominating in the absence of Embiid, the Pelicans outperformed the Sixers in paint scoring (60-50) and rebounds (41-30). They also excelled in teamwork, distributing 33 assists.
Looking ahead, the Pelicans host the San Antonio Spurs on Friday before a weekend matchup against the Chicago Bulls. This victory sets the stage for an exciting trajectory in their ongoing season.