Williamson pushes New Orleans past NBA-leading Utah, 129-124
The Associated Press
NEW ORLEANS — Zion Williamson showed no fear of renowned Jazz rim protector Rudy Gobert and spearheaded a relentless — and effective — assault on the Utah basket.
Williamson had 26 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, and the New Orleans Pelicans held off a late Utah comeback bid to beat the NBA-leading Jazz 129-124 on Monday.
“My mindset was, whatever I can do to give my teammates energy, I’m going to do it,” said Williamson, whose dominant third quarter gave New Orleans a double-digit lead heading into the fourth. “After the first two quarters of me kind of reading their defense, I really got a feel for it and I just was on the attack.”
And the defenders he attacked included the 7-foot-1 Gobert, a two-time NBA defensive player of the year.
“Rudy Gobert is a phenomenal defender and phenomenal shot-blocker. So, it’s not easy making shots over him,” Williamson said. “Honestly, I looked to draw the foul initially, but somehow I finished those shots.”
Brandon Ingram scored 26 points and Lonzo Ball added 23 points to go with eight assists, seven rebounds and two blocks, giving New Orleans three starters with 20-plus points.
“Any time we all play like this, I definitely like our chances,” Ball said.
Pelicans reserve JJ Redick scored 17 points, highlighted by a pair of four-point plays on 3-pointers as he was fouled.
Bojan Bogdanovic hit seven 3s and finished with a game-high 31 points for Utah (27-8), which was outscored 74-56 in the paint in losing for just the eighth time this season, but also the second time in three games.
“We’ve got to own the paint and we didn’t do that in any way shape or form,” said Utah guard Donovan Mitchell, who scored 21 points. “This is a tough loss. I think we’re all pretty upset about this because it’s stuff that we knew. It wasn’t like we were tired. It wasn’t like they did anything (unexpected). We just didn’t have the urgency, and that can’t happen.”