Pelicans beat Grizzlies as Zion outshines Ja in battle of rookie superstars


NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA – JANUARY 31: Zion Williamson #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans shoots over Jonas Valanciunas #17 of the Memphis Grizzlies during a NBA game at Smoothie King Center on January 31, 2020 in New Orleans, Louisiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

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NEW ORLEANS — Zion Williamson scored 24 points in a little less than 29 minutes, and the New Orleans Pelicans beat the Memphis Grizzlies 139-111 on Friday night in the first match-up this season between the NBA’s top two draft picks.

Newly selected All-Star Brandon Ingram scored 20 and Lonzo Ball hit five 3-pointers on seven attempts in his 19-point night for the Pelicans, who won their third straight while ending Memphis’ four-game winning streak.

Jrue Holiday added 18 points for New Orleans, which gave coach Alvin Gentry his 500th win and pulled to four games behind the Grizzlies for the Western Conference’s final playoff spot with 33 games remaining.

Jonas Valanciunas had 18 points for Memphis before fouling out with 8:11 remaining. Grizzlies rookie Ja Morant, taken second overall behind Williamson in last June’s draft, scored 16 points.

Both rookies were involved in one of Williamson’s early highlights. Holiday stole the ball from Morant, initiating a fast break that led to Williamson throwing down an alley-oop lob from Ball.

That was the first of four alley-oop baskets by Williamson, He dunked three of them, but the most difficult basket came when he corralled an overthrown lob with his left hand behind the plane of the backboard and then switched the ball to his right hand and laid it in before coming down off balance and falling over the baseline.

Williamson also drove the baseline for a twisting two-handed dunk and put back several offensive rebounds. New Orleans outscored Memphis by 25 while Williamson was on the court, giving the celebrated rookie out of Duke the best plus-minus figure of any player in the game.

Little went wrong for the Pelicans, who shot 53.7%, made 15 3s and led by as many as 32 points in the fourth quarter.

New Orleans led by as many as 16 points in the first half after Jj Redick’s 3 made it 58-42 in the middle of the second quarter.

Memphis was able to trim its deficit back to single digits when Ball’s turnover led to Morant’s soaring two-handed dunk off a lob made it 63-55.

Valanciunas, who scored 11 points in the first half, pulled Memphis to 65-59 on a reverse layup before Williamson’s split free throws gave New Orleans a seven-point lead at halftime.

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