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Pelicans play ‘best game of the year,’ exacting revenge behind Zion’s stellar performance in win over Suns, 123-101

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All the starters made an impact, including the main cast of reserves. Truly, the most complete victory of the season.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at New Orleans Pelicans Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

The last time the Phoenix Suns and New Orleans Pelicans faced off, Louisiana’s favorite NBA team was embarrassed on national television in a 111-86 blowout.

It’s not clear how many expected a different result on Wednesday evening, but the Pelicans put together a complete-game effort of their own on display, winning in lopsided fashion, 123-101.

It wasn’t always pretty, and Phoenix made their share of runs, but New Orleans responded each time in arguably their most balanced and impressive victory of the season.

Led by Zion Williamson’s dominant and super-efficient 28 points (12-14), New Orleans made life frustrating for Phoenix, a team that did whatever it pleased in the first matchup against the Pelicans. More on Zion in a moment though.

His all-star partner in crime wasn’t too shabby as well. Brandon Ingram finished with 23 points on 17 shots, but he also dished out six assists, grabbed four rebounds and came up with two blocks. Ingram is never one to look for the spotlight, but his patience offensively and timeliness on defense were huge elements in Wednesday’s victory.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt this was our best game of the year.” Stan Van Gundy mentioned in postgame. “We need to keep this game in our minds and understand all the things we did to win...Tonight is the blueprint for us.”

To Van Gundy’s point, the 101 points scored by the Suns was the lowest total by a Pelicans’ opponent dating back to December 31st in a matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Pelicans may have a case of the young team syndrome, as they can show trouble bringing winning game formulas into their following matchups, but you’ll take wins against solid teams no matter how you find them.

Key Observations:

“Wherever he goes, I go”

Take this as you may, but Lonzo Ball’s performances will often tell you if the Pelicans were victorious or not. When he’s aggressive on both ends, team success normally follows suit, especially versus good basketball clubs.

Wednesday wasn’t about the assists, and while he shot well from deep, this wasn’t the outing we saw against Milwaukee. Lonzo, was just ... good. Ball made Suns’ superstar Devin Booker work all night, and while he finished with 25 points, there were moments that resembled Jrue Holiday’s lockdown efforts of yesteryear for Zo.

Ball finished with 18 points, knocked down for 3-pointers, and was assertive, steady and consistent throughout the contest.

All around Zion:

Coaches have been on Zion lately about his playmaking. Ingram has been mentioned as well, but we’ve seen the performances he is capable of as a distributor throughout his career. The point for both is no matter how good they are as individuals, none of that matters if they don’t make their teammates better.

Williamson has joined Ingram in taking the challenge, but now the results are starting to show up. January provided the best assist for any month in Williamson’s career at 2.8. While that isn’t necessarily eye-popping, there’s something else that must be paid attention. After a career high seven-assist performance last Friday versus Milwaukee, Williamson’s six dishes against the Suns ranks second in the 43 games the 2nd year phenom has suited up for.

It’s clear that one way or another, Williamson is making an effort to make the right plays and not just do things himself. While the Pelicans shot-making of late surely helps those assist numbers, there are details in Zion’s decision-making that shows a player trying more now than ever to make the correct play by including open teammates.

We know he can do this:

Okay maybe we forgot he could do THAT. But when Williamson is showing his all-around game (he even made a three) and competing consistently on defense, there may only be a handful of players right now more dangerous.

Next up, the Pelicans will look for revenge after an early season meltdown against the Pacers on Friday in Indiana.

Stay tuned, and Geaux Pels!

For more Pelicans talk, subscribe to The Bird Calls podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @Impatientbull.