Zion Williamson scored a season-high 32 points, Brandon Ingram added 30 and the New Orleans Pelicans finished the NBA In-Season Tournament group game on a winning note, beating the Los Angeles Clippers 116-106 Friday night.
Williamson scored nine points in the final 12 minutes as the Pelicans improved to 3-1 in West Group B play. Houston is 2-1 in the group but would take first place in the group with a victory over Dallas on Tuesday thanks to its victory against New Orleans earlier in the tournament.
New Orleans also extended its winning streak to three and has won five of its last six.
“The in-season tournament is a great stepping stone for us,” said Williamson, who also had six rebounds and five assists. “We didn’t win anything, so it’s good to see where we are with something on the line.”
Paul George scored 34 points while Norman Powell and Kawhi Leonard had 20 each for the Clippers, who ended a three-game winning streak. Los Angeles was 1-3 in group play.
A Russell Westbrook free throw put the Clippers up 87-86 before the Pelicans took control with a 20-8 run in five minutes. Herb Jones scored nine of his 14 points during the spurt and Ingram added six.
The Clippers made one last push and cut the deficit to 114-110, but Williamson provided the decisive points with his putback layup with 34.1 seconds remaining.
“These two guys are extremely important to our entire group. And when they’re healthy and playing at a high level, we have a chance to compete with any team,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said. “They do a good job playing against each other.”
Los Angeles trailed 56-55 at halftime, but scored the first seven points of the third quarter to take its first lead of the game. The Pelicans led 79-77 with three minutes remaining, but went on an 8-4 run at the end of the quarter to take an 85-83 lead heading into the fourth.
Ingram had 16 points in the first 10 minutes, including 10 straight points during a 14-0 run, as the Pelicans took a 33-12 lead. The Clippers closed the quarter on an 11-3 run to lead 36-23 after 12 minutes.
“Usually the air is different when I’m back in Los Angeles,” said Ingram, accustomed to the confines of Crypto.Com Arena after being drafted and playing his first three seasons with the Lakers before being traded to New Orleans as part of the Anthony Davis trade in 2019. “There are some familiar rims. It feels like a shooting gallery and it feels good.
New Orleans pushed its advantage to 47-30 on back-to-back 3-pointers from Jordan Hawkins, but the Clippers outscored the Pelicans 25-9 over the final eight minutes to pull within a goal at halftime. George scored eight during the run and Leonard added seven.
“Brandon always gets off to a fast start and puts us behind the eighth ball every game. I just thought offensively we didn’t find the right rhythm. I thought we had a bad flow all night,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said.
Pelicans: Travel to Utah for back-to-back games starting Saturday.
Clippers: Host the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday.