Zion Williamson scores 21, Pelicans hold off Bulls 125-119
CHICAGO - Zion Williamson scored 21, JJ Redick added 18 points and the New Orleans Pelicans hung on to beat the Chicago Bulls 125-119 on Thursday night.
Williamson had nine points as New Orleans outscored Chicago 31-19 in the third quarter to break open the game. The Pelicans led by as many as 27 points and withstood a big run down the stretch by the Bulls' backups to come away with the win after back-to-back losses.
Williamson didn't seem to be too bothered by a sprained right toe. The No. 1 overall draft pick made 9 of 11 shots, including a thunderous alley-oop early in the fourth quarter, after going 5 of 19 two nights earlier against the NBA-leading Milwaukee Bucks.
Redick hit three 3-pointers, and All-Star Brandon Ingram added 15 points and five assists before leaving with a sprained right ankle in the third.
Zach LaVine led Chicago with 22 points. Chandler Hutchison scored 16 points to go with eight rebounds, and Adam Mokoka added 15 points in the fourth quarter - the first points of his career. The rookie was even serenaded with “MVP! MVP!” chants in the closing minute as the Bulls whittled away the lead.
They cut it to 123-119 with six seconds left on Ryan Arcidiacono's 3. But Jahlil Okafor tipped in a missed free throw by Jaxson Hayes to make it a six-point game.
The trade deadline passed Thursday with the Bulls standing pat and insisting they remain committed to their young core despite a 19-33 record.
Executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson said the team “absolutely” believes long term in LaVine and Lauri Markkanen. While LaVine came into Thursday's game averaging a career-high 24.9 points, Markkanen has taken a step back in his third season.
Paxson insisted the Bulls still view the 7-footer from Finland as a “cornerstone player” and it's the organization's “responsibility to help him become the player he wants to be.” He said he talked to Markkanen's agent on Thursday and was given no indication he wants out of Chicago, though Paxson did acknowledge the Bulls need to give him a bigger role on offense.
For now, Markkanen needs to heal after missing his seventh game in a row with a right hip injury. Paxson expects him, as well as Otto Porter Jr. (broken left foot) and Wendell Carter Jr. (sprained right ankle), to return at the end of the month or in early March.
Paxson also said guard Denzel Valentine's name came up in trade talks, but Thaddeus Young's did not.
Pelicans: The Pelicans scored 72 points in the first half - eight shy of a franchise record against the Los Angeles Clippers on Jan. 18.
Bulls: G Kris Dunn (sprained right knee), Valentine (strained hamstring) and F Daniel Gafford (ankle) sat out the game.
Pelicans: Visit Indiana on Saturday.
Bulls: Host Philadelphia on Sunday.