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Zion soars to 31, Simmons helps 76ers see off Clippers

The Pelicans’ number one draft pick is in sensational form after recovering from a nightmare knee injury.

Image: Rusty Costanza

TOP DRAFT PICK Zion Williamson, whose return to peak fitness was slowed due to a sore ankle over the weekend, scored a career-high 31 points as the New Orleans Pelicans defeated the Portland Trail Blazers 138-117 on Tuesday.

The 19-year-old Williamson also had nine rebounds and five assists, while Josh Hart took advantage of a rare start by scoring 12 of his 17 points in the crucial third quarter. 

“I hold myself to high expectations, but I think it’s just finding the line between reality and dreams,” Williamson said.

“If my teammates find me, they find me. If not, I just got to make another play, get the rebound and just play defence.”

Williamson, the first pick in the 2019 NBA entry draft, missed the first three months of the season after suffering a knee injury in the offseason. 

“I don’t really think he’s comparable to anyone that I have seen,” Portland forward Carmelo Anthony said of Williamson. “Someone who is as powerful as that, who jumps like that. You can tell he’s getting better.”

New Orleans trailed by as many as 16 points in the first half before pulling to within two at halftime. They outscored the Blazers 41-21 in the third quarter to improve to 23-31 on the season. 

Hart started in place of all-star forward Brandon Ingram, who missed his second straight game because of a sprained ankle. 

Source: ESPN/YouTube

JJ Redick had 20 points off the bench, Jrue Holiday had 16 points and 10 assists, Frank Jackson scored 13 and Nicolo Melli had 10 in the win.

Heading into the game, Damian Lillard was averaging 40 points over his last dozen contests. He missed all four of his three point attempts and ended the night on 20. CJ McCollum also had 20 points and Anthony had 18 points in the loss.

Elsewhere, Australia’s Ben Simmons delivered his sixth triple double of the season as the Philadelphia 76ers won their 25th home game with a 110-103 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Melbourne man finished with 26 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists and Cameroonian centre Joel Embiid had 26 points and nine rebounds for the Sixers, who extended their win streak to three straight. Their 25-2 home record is the best in the NBA.

Source: Motion Station/YouTube

Kawhi Leonard tallied 30 points and nine assists for THE Clippers, who fell to 1-2 on their four-game road trip. 

The contest was tied 54-54 at halftime and the Sixers led 81-77 heading into the fourth quarter. Leonard led all scorers in the first half with 17 points. Simmons powered the Sixers with 16.

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With just over five minutes to go, Leonard scored a basket to cut the deficit to 99-94.

Philadelphia immediately answered with a three-pointer from Richardson to push the lead back to eight points.

Richardson then completed a three-point play, and the Philadelphia lead was 11 points with 3:37 remaining.

“I itch for moments like that. In close games, we all want to be part of that positive effort and I had a part of it,” Richardson said.

The Clippers got within 109-100 with 81 seconds left after a three-point play by Leonard.

“We didn’t make shots (in the fourth quarter),” Leonard said. (Richardson) got to the paint, made some big 3s for them. He made shots.”

Embiid and Morris received a double technical after a scuffle under the basket with 2:48 left.

Also, James Harden and Russell Westbrook combined for 78 points, and the Houston Rockets snapped the Boston Celtics’ seven-game win streak with a 116-105 victory.

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AFP

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