NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Zion Williamson punctuated a 28-point performance with a soaring, one-handed alley-oop jam during a decisive fourth-quarter surge, and the New Orleans Pelicans soundly defeated the Phoenix Suns 123-101 on Wednesday night.
“That’s something I get to see all the time, but it still amazes me every time he does it,” Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram said of Williamson’s knockout-blow dunk. “He started the game really, really good. He was very efficient … and he just saw everything go in tonight.
“That’s definitely a confidence boost for him and I don’t think he needs much confidence,” Ingram added.
Ingram scored 23 and Lonzo Ball added 18 points for New Orleans, which led by as many as 28 in the fourth quarter and ended a two-game slide while also stopping the Suns’ winning streak at three.
Steven Adams, who returned from a sore left calf that had sidelined him 1 1/2 games, scored 11 points and grabbed 13 rebounds.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt it was our best game of the year.,” Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy said. “We played both ends of the floor well and we played for four quarters.”
Devin Booker scored 25 for the Suns, who never led in the second half. Deandre Ayton had 13 points and 11 rebounds.
The Pelicans outscored the Suns by 37 when their lineup included Williamson, who also had seven rebounds and six assists. He made 12 of 14 shots from the field, including the only 3-pointer he attempted.
“There were times where we had four guys around him, and he still dribbled right by us and got to the basket,” Suns coach Monty Williams said.
Williamson also was everywhere on the defensive end, defending the paint and closing out perimeter shooters.
“Easily his best game of the year if we’re talking both ends of the floor,” Van Gundy said. “That’s by far the best defense I’ve seen him play. He covered a lot of ground. He worked really hard.”
Williamson also had a couple alley-oop dunks, the last of which put the Pelicans up 108-82. After that, Williams subbed out the entire Suns lineup with half the fourth quarter still remaining.
“I know whatever energy we can get, we need, because we need to run off some wins,” Williamson said. “I feel like I’m improving as the season goes on. The game’s getting slower and slower for me.”
The Pelicans took their first double-digit lead when Ball’s 3 made it 72-61 halfway through the third. It was the 14th game this season in which New Orleans had taken a lead of 10 or more.
The Pelicans had blown six of the previous 13, but not this time.
Josh Hart’s 3, Williamson’s dunk of Nickeil Alexander-Walker’s alley-oop lob and JJ Redick’s 3 helped the Pelicans finish the third period with an 88-74 lead.
New Orleans then opened the fourth with seven straight points on Williamson’s driving leaner, Hart’s corner 3 that Williamson set up with a pass from the paint and Hart’s fast-break layup to make it 95-74 with 10:31 left.
Suns: Ayton’s streak of games with at least 13 rebounds ended at eight. … Chris Paul was called for a technical foul for apparently saying something officials didn’t like after a driving layup by Ball. … Abdel Nader scored 11 points. … The Suns missed 27 of 35 3-point attempts (22.9%).
Pelicans: Redick received 18 minutes of playing time after seeing none the previous two games. He hit two 3s in the second half and finished with 10 points. … Eric Bledsoe hit three 3s and scored 11 points. Hart had 10 points. … Redick made both of his free throws to improve to 27 for 27 this season. … New Orleans outrebounded Phoenix 44-39. … The Pelicans hit 14 3s, with Ball making four.
Redick said he was “unfazed” by seeing his name come up in reports about potential trades this season. Redick also said nothing to discount speculation that he could be traded, saying he has open lines of communication with Van Gundy and Pelicans basketball operations chief David Griffin.
“We have a great relationship and you know there’s transparency on my part, transparency on Griff’s part,” Redick said. “I don’t expect that to change. I have the utmost respect for them and I know it’s mutual. Whatever ends up happening, I think there’ll be transparency.”
Suns: Host Detroit on Friday in the first of seven straight scheduled home games.
Pelicans: Visit Indiana on Friday night.
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