NBA regular season

Leaner, meaner Williamson stars in return as Pelicans pummel Durant-led Nets

Leaner, meaner Williamson stars in return as Pelicans pummel Durant-led Nets

New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson (1) controls the ball against Brooklyn Nets guard Ben Simmons (10) and forward Kevin Durant (7) during the first quarter at Barclays Center

Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

Fit-again New Orleans star Zion Williamson shows off after a 17-month absence as the Pelicans manhandle the star-studded Brooklyn Nets

Zion Williamson collected 25 points and 9 rebounds in his first game in over 17 months and the visiting New Orleans Pelicans never trailed in a 130-108 victory over the Brooklyn Nets Wednesday night (Thursday, October 20, Manila time) in New York in the season opener for both teams.

Williamson appeared in his first game since May 4, 2021, and showcased an array of interior moves. The former No. 1 overall pick returned from missing all of last season with a foot injury and showed no lingering effects of a minor ankle injury sustained last week.

Williamson made 11-of-22 shots in 30 minutes and helped New Orleans total 62 points in the paint. Williamson was particularly dominant in the third when he made 5-of-6 shots as the Pelicans outscored the Nets, 40-28, to pull away.

Brandon Ingram paced the Pelicans with 28 points on 10-of-17 shooting as New Orleans shot 49%. CJ McCollum added 21 while Jonas Valanciunas collected 15 and 13 rebounds to help the Pelicans break a seven-game skid against the Nets.

Kevin Durant scored 32 points but had little help as the Nets began their 11th season in Brooklyn with a dud. Kyrie Irving was held to 15 points on 6-of-19 shooting as the Nets struggled virtually the entire game.

Patty Mills added 16 while Nic Claxton chipped in 13 and 10 boards. Royce O’Neale contributed 10 points, but Ben Simmons finished with just 4 points and fouled out in 23 minutes during his first game since Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against Atlanta with Philadelphia on June 20, 2021.

New Orleans scored the first seven points and raced out to an 11-2 lead on consecutive hoops by Williamson less than four minutes in. Jose Alvarado’s layup upped the lead to 20-4 with 5:44 remaining and the Pelicans held a 32-14 lead after Williamson converted a layup in the final minute.

The Pelicans opened a 42-24 lead on Ingram’s fadeaway with 7:22 remaining in the second quarter and Brooklyn outscored New Orleans, 26-8, the rest of the half to get within 58-50 after O’Neale’s putback beat the buzzer.

Durant’s 13-footer with 8:43 remaining in the third got the Nets within 66-56. A little over four minutes later, New Orleans seized an 87-62 lead on Ingram’s 3-pointer to cap a 21-6 blitz and held a 98-78 lead entering the fourth quarter. –

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