Williamson, McCollum take over as Pelicans stun Wolves

Agence France-Presse
Williamson, McCollum take over as Pelicans stun Wolves
Zion Williamson of the New Orleans Pelicans
Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images North America / Getty Images via AFP

LOS ANGELES – Zion Williamson and C.J. McCollum combined for 51 points as the New Orleans Pelicans upset the Western Conference-leading Minnesota Timberwolves, 117-106, in the NBA on Wednesday (Thursday Manila time).

Pelicans power forward Williamson led the scoring with 27 points while McCollum added 24 as New Orleans ground out an impressive victory on the road.

McCollum's tally included four 3-pointers while Brandon Ingram (19 points) and Herbert Jones (16) also chipped in with valuable contributions. Jones' 16 points included four 3-pointers from five attempts. Anthony Edwards led the Minnesota scoring with 35 points.

Minnesota's defeat came just two days after their New Year's Day reverse to the New York Knicks, and marked the first time this season the Wolves (24-9) have suffered consecutive losses.

The Pelicans' fourth straight win meanwhile leaves them in fifth place in the Western Conference as they bid to return to the playoffs this year after missing out in 2022-2023.

"They’re a really good team; they're the best team defensively, and sound offensively, so to come in here and get a win against a talented, well-coached team like Minnesota is huge for us," Pelicans coach Willie Green said. "It was a good wire-to-win for us."

Elsewhere Wednesday, the Indiana Pacers won the latest instalment of their simmering rivalry with the Milwaukee Bucks 142-130 to complete back-to-back victories over the 2021 NBA champions.

'Winning is fun'

Point guard Tyrese Haliburton led the scoring for the Pacers with 31 points on a night when seven Indiana players posted double-digit tallies for the home side, who trailed by two at halftime before taking control of the contest with a 47-point third quarter.

"Winning is fun, and we're having fun doing it right now — we've got to continue competing at a high level," Haliburton said. "If we keep getting good shots, good things will happen."

Haliburton said defensive improvements had been the key to the Pacers' game-changing third quarter display, which left Indiana leading by 16 points heading into the fourth quarter.

"We just had to lock in defensively — we've been scoring pretty well against those guys all year, so we had to figure out a way to get some stops, and we were able do that in the second half," he said.

Recent encounters between the two sides have seen tempers boil over, and there was a flashpoint in the fourth quarter when Bennedict Mathurin drew a foul from Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo that triggered a scuffle between several players from both sides.

Antetokounmpo led Milwaukee's scorers with 26 points while Damian Lillard added 23 and Khris Middleton 19.

Bucks coach Adrian Griffin meanwhile blamed his team's turnover count — 13 in all — for letting the game slip away.

"We gave ourselves a chance but it's hard when you turn the ball over," Griffin said.

In Atlanta meanwhile, Jalen Johnson rattled in 28 points and Trae Young added 24 as the Hawks downed the in-form Oklahoma City Thunder, 141-138.

Oklahoma City had arrived in Georgia on the back of five straight victories, a run of results which included an impressive home win over the Boston Celtics on Tuesday as well as a win over the NBA champion Denver Nuggets last week.

But despite another virtuoso performance from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who finished with 33 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists, the Thunder came up just short as Atlanta completed a wire-to-wire win.

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