NEW ORLEANS — Zion Williamson scored a career-high 43 points, capping it with New Orleans’ final 14 points in the last 2:44 of the game, and the Pelicans narrowly outlasted the Minnesota Timberwolves 119-118 on Wednesday night for their fourth straight victory.
“I love winning. This team loves winning. This organization loves winning,” Williamson said, crediting teammate CJ McCollum for urging him on in the final minutes.
On a MISSION 😤
— NBA (@NBA) December 29, 2022
“CJ looked at me and said, `You want to be great, this is the moment to do it.’ He didn’t call me out, he just called me up.”
Anthony Edwards, who scored 27 for Minnesota, missed a baseline fade for the win as time expired on a game in which the Wolves led most of the way, and by as many as 11 points, before losing their fourth straight.
Williamson’s 3-pointer with 2:17 left cut Minnesota’s lead to 112-110.
“Big-time shot,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said of Williamson’s only 3-point attempt in the game.
Williamson then pulled out of a spinning dribble in the lane for a short floater that tied it.
“That’s just who he is; he understands time, score, situations. He understands the moment. And he made big plays after big plays,” Green said. “That’s what great players do.”
Williamson tied it again at 114 on a driving finger roll. And after Jaden McDaniels‘ free throws put Minnesota ahead again with 1:04 left, Williamson hit an off-balance driving layup to tie it before stealing the ball from McDaniels and breaking free for a go-ahead dunk.
Final 14 PTS for the @PelicansNBA
33 PTS in the second half
Career-high 43 PTS on the night
Please enjoy this edition of Zion Williamson: Getting Buckets pic.twitter.com/r5X86YU4TE
— NBA (@NBA) December 29, 2022
“He just played a balanced game,” Green said. “He dominated where he needed to on both ends of the floor.”
Edwards’ dunk tied it at 118 before Williamson hit one of two free throws, which turned out to be enough.
Trey Murphy III scored 21, going 5 of 6 from 3, and CJ McCollum scored 20 for the Pelicans. Jonas Valanciunas had 12 points and 11 rebounds.
D'Angelo Russell had 27 points and McDaniels scored 19 for Minnesota.
The game was marked by physical play and flaring emotions.
There were 52 total fouls called in the game, including a handful of technical fouls and one flagrant foul on each team.
Austin Rivers, who wound up fouling out with nearly 8 minutes to go, was assessed a flagrant-1 foul after he caught Larry Nance Jr. hard in the head near the basket late in the third quarter. Nance remained down on one knee while trainers encircled him. Soon after, he went to the locker room and was ruled out for the remainder of the game with neck spasms.
Rivers, a 2012 New Orleans first-round draft choice along with Anthony Davis, also was involved in an exchange of shoves with Valanciunas. Double technicals were called and an additional technical was called on New Orleans’ Naji Marshall for shoving Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert in the back as he stepped between Valanciunas and Rivers.
Minnesota took a 50-39 lead after a 9-0 run ignited by Russell’s 3 and fueled by McDaniels’ layup and putback in the second quarter.
Back-to-back dunks by Williamson and Murphy helped the Pelicans trim it to 52-49 before Reid’s 3 made it 55-49 at halftime.