NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Zion Williamson had 21 points and 11 rebounds in 27 minutes, and the New Orleans Pelicans beat the Boston Celtics 123-108 on Sunday for their first victory since the rookie star joined the lineup.
Jrue Holiday had 25 points, JJ Redick scored 17 and Brandon Ingram added 16 for New Orleans, which snapped a two-game slide.
Williamson played his most minutes yet in his third game back from arthroscopic knee surgery performed the day before the regular season opened. He had played the first five or so minutes of each quarter in his first two games, but the Pelicans made an adjustment to his fourth-quarter usage to allow the NBA’s top overall draft choice out of Duke to be on the court for the final minutes Sunday.
It paid off. Williamson scored eight points in the final three minutes — highlighted by a dunk on a baseline cut as he was fouled — and the Pelicans pulled away.
Kemba Walker scored 35 points, Gordon Hayward 23 and Jaylen Brown 20 for the Celtics, who fell behind for good in the first quarter and trailed by as many as 23 in the third quarter.
Boston hit just 16 of its first 43 shot — including 3-of-17 shooting from 3-point range — during the first half. New Orleans took advantage, opening a 62-42 lead by halftime.
Seven Pelicans players combined for 10 3-pointers in the opening half, with Ingram, Holiday and Lonzo Ball each hitting two.
Williamson scored nine points while playing 12:26 through the first two quarters. His early highlights included an alley-oop layup on a long lob from Ball as Williamson raced down the lane in transition. He would have scored more if he hadn’t missed four of his first five free throws.
New Orleans led by 23 early in the third quarter and was still up by 18 when Williamson soared to the rim over Boston’s Vincent Poirier to slam back Redick’s missed 3.
Soon after, Walker hit a 3 and added free throws during a 7-0 mini-run that pulled Boston to 87-79.
In the fourth quarter, Josh Hart and Redick missed consecutive breakaway layups and then Marcus Smart scored inside while being fouled by Williamson to cut it to 97-91. But Redick followed with a 3 and Williamson scored on a drive from the top of the key to make it 102-91 with 8:20 to go.
Boston struggled to stay within 10 after that.
Celtics: F Jayson Tatum was inactive because of an illness and right groin strain. … C Enes Kanter missed his second straight game with a bruised right hip. … Daniel Theis scored 15 points. … The Celtics shot 8 of 33 from 3-point range.
Pelicans: Outrebounded Boston 54-37. … Combined for 16 3s on 36 attempts, with Holiday hitting four while Redick and Ingram made three apiece. … Won convincingly despite missing 10 of 29 free throws and committing 20 turnovers. … Williamson committed four turnovers and missed five of eight free throws.
Celtics: Visit Miami on Tuesday night.
Pelicans: Visit Cleveland on Tuesday night.
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