April 17th, 2024

Zion Williamson powers New Orleans Pelicans to 139-98 rout of Toronto Raptors

By John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press on March 5, 2024.

New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram (14) dunks over Toronto Raptors centre Jontay Porter (34) as Pelicans centre Jonas Valanciunas (17) looks on during first half NBA basketball action in Toronto on Tuesday, March 5, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

TORONTO – Zion Williamson had 16 points, nine assists and eight rebounds to lead the New Orleans Pelicans to a 139-98 rout of the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday.

Trey Murphy III came off the New Orleans (37-25) bench with a season-high 34 points to lead all scorers. Murphy hit 10 three-pointers as the Pelicans shot an impressive 24 for 49 from beyond the arc.

Herb Jones contributed five of those three-pointers, finishing with 17 points and former Raptors centre Jonas Valanciunas had a double-double with 10 points and 10 boards.

Immanuel Quickley had 17 points, seven rebounds and seven assists for Toronto (23-39). Gary Trent Jr. had 16 points and RJ Barrett of Mississauga, Ont., added 15 points with six rebounds.

The injury bug bit the Raptors yet again, with guard Ochai Agbaji leaving the game early with left knee soreness.

All-star forward Scottie Barnes (hand surgery), starting centre Jakob Poeltl (dislocated finger) and reserve guard Bruce Brown (right knee inflammation) were unavailable for the game.

After the Raptors reeled off a quick 8-0 run for a five-point lead, Pelicans head coach Willie Green called a full timeout. New Orleans responded with an 18-4 run to storm out in front. That helped the visitors to a 42-28 lead after one quarter.

Toronto started the game shooting 5 for 7 from three-point range but then struggled from distance, dropping to 7 of 23 from beyond the arc in the first half.

Williamson stole the ball from Toronto rookie Gradey Dick with 54 seconds left in the quarter and charged down the court for a ferocious one-handed jam with the fans at Scotiabank Arena letting out a collective gasp. Those were the final points of the half as the Pelicans went into intermission with a 68-45 lead.

New Orleans didn’t relent in the third, opening the quarter with an 8-1 run for a 30-point lead. Williamson sent a bounce pass to a wide-open Murphy for a 27-foot three-pointer with 12.2 seconds in the quarter for his sixth assist of the night.

Although Barrett responded with a driving layup before the period ended, the Pelicans still held a 106-76 lead.

There was no closing that gap in the fourth, with the deep New Orleans bench and impressive three-point shooting keeping the game well out of reach. With more than seven minutes left to play both teams benched all their starters, turning the game over to rarely used reserves.

With the Raptors down by 34 with over four minutes to play, fans started chanting “We want Boucher!” to call for little-used forward Chris Boucher of Montreal, the last remaining member of Toronto’s 2019 NBA championship team.

Boucher did not play in the loss.

BARNES OUT – Barnes had surgery on his broken finger on Monday and the Raptors had no timetable for the all-star’s return. Toronto head coach Darko Rajakovic said that the organization is hopeful Barnes will come back before the end of the season.

“I know that he’s eager to come back and play,” said Rajakovic. “But we just don’t have enough information at this time so we can’t plan anything like that.”

UP NEXT – The Raptors face the Suns in Phoenix on Thursday.

New Orleans continues its East Coast swing with a stop in Philadelphia against the 76ers.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2023.

Follow @jchidleyhill on X.

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