Pelicans’ Williamson set for road debut at Cleveland

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The New Orleans Pelicans won for the first time with rookie Zion Williamson in the lineup on Sunday.

Now the No. 1 overall draft choice will make his NBA road debut in the city where the player to whom he is most often compared began his NBA career.

On Tuesday night, the Pelicans visit Cleveland, where LeBron James’ debut in 2003 created the same kind of frenzy that Williamson’s has.

Williamson had his first double-double — 21 points and 11 rebounds — as the Pelicans defeated the visiting Boston Celtics 123-108 on Sunday after losing Williamson’s first two games.

“He’s played three NBA games now, and what he’s done, he’s just done on raw talent really,” New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry said. “He’ll get the feel of what we’re trying to do and playing in a certain amount of space and how we can give him the ball and things like that. He’s going to be a welcome addition. He’s going to be a guy that we can finish the game with.”

Williamson finished for the first time against the Celtics. After starting each quarter, playing a few minutes and going to the bench for the remainder of each period in his first two games, he returned midway through the fourth quarter and scored eight consecutive Pelicans points as they held off a Celtics comeback.

“I was very anxious,” Williamson said of the final minutes, “but it was tough watching from the sideline in the fourth quarter in the last two games. It was good to finally get out there, and it was good to get my first win.”

Williamson is averaging 19.3 points, 8.0 rebounds and 22.3 minutes, and he is shooting 66.7 percent from the field.

For the Cavaliers, the James days are a distant memory even though his second stint with them, which included a championship in 2016, ended less than two years ago when he signed with the Lakers.

Cleveland, like New Orleans, is coming off a breakthrough win. The Cavaliers ended a seven-game losing streak and won for the third time in 15 games when they defeated the host Detroit Pistons 115-100 on Monday night.

Before that, they were swept on a three-game homestand, falling by an average of 14.7 points.

“The last few games at home, we’ve really laid an egg,” Cavaliers forward Kevin Love said. “Hopefully, this will carry over to (Tuesday) against a high-octane, high-energy team.”

Cleveland has lost its past seven home games and hasn’t won at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse since Dec. 23.

“We have some great fans back in Cleveland,” Cavaliers coach John Beilein said. “We’ve got to reward them with a win because we haven’t done that in a while.”

Love scored all 20 of his points in the first half Monday, making six 3-pointers, to lead the Cavaliers, who had lost five of their past seven by at least 10 points. Cleveland wound up winning by double digits for the first time since a 108-87 victory at New York on Nov. 10.

“We came out and played some inspired basketball,” Love said. “It’s all about effort. We were locked in on what we wanted to get done.”

Cleveland led 53-45 at halftime and increased its lead to 89-72 after three quarters. Love didn’t even attempt a field goal in the second half.

–Field Level Media

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