ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Zion Williamson scored 23 points in 23 minutes in his first game against Orlando, and the New Orleans Pelicans beat the Magic 135-100 on Thursday night to snap a four-game losing streak.
Brandon Ingram added 29 points and the Pelicans got double-figure scoring from six players. Eric Bledsoe chipped in 15 points by hitting five 3-pointers. Lonzo Ball had 12 assists. Willy Hernangomez had a season-best 18 points and 12 rebounds.
Williamson hit nine baskets from in the paint, and the Pelicans manhandled the short-handed Magic for 66 points in the lane.
“He’s got an incredible ability to get to the rim and to make plays, and when he and Brandon are out there together, offensively we’re pretty good; it’s the defensive end that we’ve got to take care of,” Pelicans’ coach Stan Van Gundy said of Williamson, who missed New Orleans’ three previous games against Orlando. “The scary thing with Zion is it’s going to get better and better and better.”
New Orleans shot 55.6% from the floor and improved to 17-8 when shooting better than 50%. The 35-point victory was the Pelicans’ largest of the season, eclipsing their 34-point win over Cleveland on March 12.
New Orleans outscored Orlando 79-43 in the second and third quarters. Neither Williamson nor Ingram played in the fourth as New Orleans built its lead to as many as 42 points.
“The reality of the situation is we need every win,” said Williamson, who had 21 first-half points on Thursday. “Saturday, we’ve got to go in there (San Antonio) and do whatever we can to get the win.”
Mo Bamba had 17 points and 12 rebounds for his first double-double of the season and the fourth of his career for Orlando. Rookie Devin Cannady scored a career-best 17 points.
Orlando lost its fourth straight game and fell for the 23rd time in 28 games. Also, the Magic have dropped seven straight at home.
“We’re playing younger guys and games that, for the standings, aren’t meaningful, but they need to be meaningful to us,” Magic coach Steve Clifford said. “They weren’t tonight. We had guys out there worried about numbers who, actually, on the stat sheet were OK, and they were terrible. Not bad, terrible.”
The friendship between Van Gundy and Clifford extends beyond their five seasons coaching together in Orlando, when they helped to guide the Magic to the 2009 NBA Finals and the 2010 East finals. Van Gundy’s brother, Jeff, gave Clifford his break into the NBA, hiring him first as a scout and later an assistant coach with the New York Knicks.
Clifford then followed Jeff Van Gundy to Houston and joined Stan Van Gundy’s staff in Orlando in 2007. During those five seasons with Clifford running Van Gundy’s defense, the Magic made the playoffs five straight seasons.
Clifford was ultimately hired as the Magic’s head coach.
“Steve is one of my closest friends,” Stan Van Gundy said. “I can’t think anybody, outside of my family, that I respect more than I do Steve Clifford both as a coach and a person.”
Pelicans: Prior to Thursday, Williamson had faced every NBA team other than his Pelicans and the Magic. He missed both games against Orlando as a rookie and the April 1 meeting in New Orleans. … By the midpoint of the second quarter, the Pelicans had nearly as many points in the paint (36) as the Magic did in the game (37). … Bledsoe hit three 3-pointers in an 81-second stretch of the first half.
Magic: Wendell Carter Jr., Orlando’s steadiest player since the franchise traded away Nikola Vucevic, Evan Fournier and Aaron Gordon, was scratched approximately 20 minutes prior to tipoff because of a sore right ankle. … Terrence Ross, Michael Carter-Williams, James Ennis and Otto Porter also missed the game because of injuries. … Thursday was the 34-year anniversary of the Board of Governors awarding Orlando an NBA franchise.
Pelicans: Host San Antonio on Saturday night.
Magic: Host Indiana on Sunday night.
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