NBA: Rookie Williamson scores career-high 31 to lead Pelicans

Field Level Media via Reuters

Posted at Feb 12 2020 11:54 AM

New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson (1) drives down court against the Portland Trail Blazers at the Smoothie King Center. Derick E. Hingle, USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

Rookie Zion Williamson had a career-high 31 points and Josh Hart scored 12 of his 17 points in a pivotal third quarter as the host New Orleans Pelicans defeated the Portland Trail Blazers, 138-117, on Tuesday night.

Williamson, returning from a one-game absence due to a sprained ankle, added nine rebounds and five assists. Hart started in place of All-Star forward Brandon Ingram, who missed his second consecutive game because of a sprained ankle.

The Pelicans trailed by as many as 16 points in the first half, but pulled within two at halftime and outscored the Blazers, 41-21, in the third quarter.

For New Orleans, JJ Redick had 20 points off the bench, Jrue Holiday had 16 points and 10 assists, Frank Jackson scored 13 and Nicolo Melli had 10.

CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard scored 20 points each to lead the Blazers, but Lillard fell well short of his league-best 40.3-point scoring average for the previous 12 games. He made just 6 of 16 shots from the field and missed all four of his 3-point attempts. In his most recent game against the Pelicans, in December, he scored just 18 points, making 6 of 21 shots and missing all 10 of his 3-pointers.

On Tuesday night, the Blazers' Carmelo Anthony added 18 points and Hassan Whiteside had 17 points and 14 rebounds.

New Orleans improved to 3-0 against Portland this season and pulled within 1 1/2 games of the ninth-place Blazers with one game remaining before the All-Star break.

Hart scored seven points as New Orleans turned a two-point deficit into a 73-70 lead early in the third quarter.

Williamson had three baskets during a 13-3 run that gave the Pelicans an 88-78 lead midway through the period.

Lillard made two free throws before New Orleans put together a 16-6 run to take a 104-86 lead at the end of the quarter.

The Blazers used a 16-0 run to take a 36-27 lead after the first quarter.

The Pelicans scored the first five points of the second quarter before the Blazers rebuilt the lead to 14.

Hart and Jackson each made a 3-pointer as New Orleans cut its gap to 65-63 at halftime.

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