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Zion will not retreat from anybody, together with Rudy Gobert and the fiery jazz

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1:00 p.m. ET

Andrew LopezESPN

On Saturday, after a disappointing loss to the San Antonio Spurs, New Orleans Pelicans striker Zion Williamson told reporters he felt his team was close to what it wanted to be. The Pelicans had just played two tough street games, losing to the Milwaukee Bucks and the Spurs, but he thought things might change soon.

“I feel like we’re almost there,” said Williamson. “I really feel like we’re almost there. There are the last few things we need to find out, but we’re almost there.”

Think of Monday night’s effort as a step in the right direction.

Behind Williamson’s third-quarter indictment, the Pelicans overturned the team with the best record in the league and held on late to defeat visiting Utah Jazz 129-124.

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The Pelicans led by 17 points early in the fourth quarter, but watched the Jazz cut it down to a single point in the last minute before getting away with victory after two stops at Utah’s last three possessions. Pelicans trainer Stan Van Gundy joked that his team didn’t hold onto the lead as much as they were able to build it so high that Utah couldn’t return.

The Jazz (27-8) came into play in the third quarter of this season with a plus of 161 points, which was 70 points better than any other team. But the Pelicans (15-19) beat them by 16 points in the third – the worst differential for Utah in the third quarter of the season.

“Tonight we wanted to come out strong in the third,” said Pelicans point guard Lonzo Ball. “That was one of the main focuses of the coaching staff. That game, Utah blew the crowd in this third quarter, that was one of the main focuses. Z led the indictment in the third for us. “

Williamson scored 15 of his 26 points in the third as the Pelicans extended their lead.

“My mindset was all I can do to get the energy of my teammates. I’ll do that,” said Williamson. “In the third quarter, after reading their defense for the first two quarters, I really got a feel for it and was on the attack.”

The attack on the basket was the main focus of the pelicans all night. They finished with 74 points in the suit, the most any team has scored in the past 25 seasons in regulation against Jazz, according to ESPN Stats & Information Research.

“It’s crazy that we’ve gotten into the basket so many times with a defensive player like Rudy Gobert where he’s on the edge all night,” said Pelicans striker Brandon Ingram of the All-Star Center in Utah. “But we succeeded.”

If the pelicans scored that many points on the color, they didn’t have to rely on 3-point attempts. New Orleans went 7-11 out of the 3-point range, and the 11 attempts were the fewest in a winning team game in the past four seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Info. Along with Utah’s 43 attempts from depth, the game had the biggest difference between any two teams for 3-point attempts this season.

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Zion Williamson misses his first shot but gets his own ricochet and lets out a scream for the and-1 basket.

When Williamson scored a goal in the third quarter, the Pelicans stayed with him, and he even went straight to Gobert on a few occasions.

“It means he’s fearless,” Ingram said of 20-year-old Williamson. “Knowing that [Gobert is] He’s a two time Defensive Player of the Year or just a really, really, really good defensive player. He’s just fearless. He knows the angles of the shot. He knows what to do when he walks into the game. He won’t waver for anyone. He will go on and on until he gets where he wants to be. “

The Pelicans have won against Utah, Milwaukee and the Phoenix Suns this season, along with a 24-point comeback against the Boston Celtics. But New Orleans has also suffered losses to the Detroit Pistons and Minnesota Timberwolves, who are at the bottom of the rankings at their respective conferences.

For a team Williamson thinks “almost there,” Van Gundy said the Pelicans are talented enough to beat anyone in the league, but that they make too many mistakes and haven’t been consistent enough on defense to beat anyone Achieve victories the way they want.

Williamson agreed.

“In order for us to get to the next level, we have to keep doing it for the next few games,” he said. “We have to agree with that.”

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Melinda Martin