NBA

NBA: Pelicans top Clippers in key West clash

By Sports Desk March 16, 2024

Zion Williamson scored 34 points to lead the New Orleans Pelicans to a 112-104 win over the slumping Los Angeles Clippers on Friday that tightened the race for the Western Conference's No. 4 seed.

The surging Pelicans moved within two games of Los Angeles for fourth place in the conference and improved to 14-5 since Jan. 31, tied with the Oklahoma City Thunder and Denver Nuggets for the best record in the West over that span. 

Los Angeles was dealt a third loss in four games despite 26 points from Paul George and 23 from Kawhi Leonard. The Clippers played a second straight game without starting point guard James Harden due to a left shoulder strain.

Williamson recorded 16 of his points during a dominant third quarter in which he went 7 of 7 from the field. The star forward closed out the period with a layup that snapped an 80-80 tie and ignited a 12-3 run that put the Pelicans ahead for good.

Trey Murphy and Naji Marshall each had 3-pointers during the spurt, which Murphy capped with an alley-oop dunk that gave New Orleans a 92-83 lead with 10:24 remaining.

Leonard's hook shot with two minutes left brought the Clippers within 107-102, but Los Angeles came up empty on its next three possessions as New Orleans scored the next five points to put the game out of reach. 

The Clippers trailed by 11 points early in the third quarter before putting together a 12-3 run that trimmed the Pelicans' lead to 65-63 with five minutes left in the period.

Heat handle Pistons to end four-game skid

Bam Adebayo recorded 22 points and nine rebounds to help the Miami Heat end a four-game losing streak with a 108-95 win over the lowly Detroit Pistons.

Terry Rozier scored 10 of his 18 points in the second half as Miami pulled away in the final two quarters to get back on track and remain 2 1/2 games behind first-place Orlando in the Southeast Division. The Magic also won on Friday, earning a 113-103 victory over the Toronto Raptors.

After Adebayo's floater in the closing seconds gave Miami a 56-54 lead at the half, the Heat dominated the final six minutes of the third quarter to stretch their advantage.

Miami broke things open with a 15-0 run, which began with six straight points from Rozier and ended with three consecutive 3-pointers by Duncan Robinson. The last of those baskets increased the margin to 83-65 with 2:29 to go in the third quarter.

The Heat maintained a double-digit cushion over the entire fourth quarter to end Detroit's modest two-game winning streak.

Simone Fontecchio led the Pistons, who own the NBA's second-worst record at 12-54, with 24 points. Jalen Duren compiled 15 points and 17 rebounds in the loss.

Jokic outduels Wembanyama, Nuggets top Spurs to stay hot

Nikola Jokić put up 31 points as the Denver Nuggets continued their strong recent stretch with a 117-106 victory over the San Antonio Spurs in a game played in the Texas capital of Austin.

Jokic finished 13 of 19 from the field while adding seven rebounds and five assists to outshine Spurs rookie sensation Victor Wembanyama, who was held to 17 points on 4-of-12 shooting.

Jamal Murray accumulated 15 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists to help Denver improve to 11-1 since the All-Star break. The defending NBA champions have won five straight games.

Jokic and the Nuggets imposed their will early on, as Denver closed out the first quarter on an 18-4 run to take a commanding 37-18 lead into the second. The two-time NBA MVP finished the period with 15 points.

The Spurs shot 60 per cent in the second quarter to close the gap to 58-49 at half-time, and got Denver's lead down to four when Zach Collins' jumper with 16.7 seconds left in the third quarter made the score 83-79.

Denver's Justin Holiday ended the third with a 3-pointer, however, and had another during a 9-1 run in the fourth that put the Nuggets up 101-84 with seven minutes to play.

The game drew a crowd of 16,223, the largest attended sporting event in the history of Austin's Moody Center.

 

 

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