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McCollum, Zion score 31 apiece, Pelicans hold on to No. 6 seed with win against Kings

New Orleans Pelicans v Sacramento Kings
New Orleans Pelicans v Sacramento Kings

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — CJ McCollum and Zion Williamson each scored 31 points and the New Orleans Pelicans beat Sacramento 135-123 on Thursday night to complete a five-game season sweep of the Kings.

Williamson went to the locker room late in the second quarter with an apparent left wrist injury, but returned to score 23 points in the second half.

“Proving myself right,” he said of his performance. “Simple as that. And then, with my teammates and coaches just trusting me, that means a lot.”

McCollum tied a season high with nine 3-pointers in 12 attempts and added seven assists to help the Pelicans improve their chances of avoiding the play-in tournament. They are sixth in the Western Conference, the final guaranteed playoff spot.

“For us, it’s about continuing to win, continuing to give ourselves a chance to accomplish what we want, which is making the playoffs and then making a run in the playoffs,” McCollum said.

Trey Murphy III added 27 points, and Jonas Valanciunas had 13 points and 10 rebounds.

New Orleans improved to 27-14 on the road, a franchise record for wins and tied with the Celtics for the best mark in the NBA. The Pelicans (48-32) lead the Phoenix Suns by one game for the sixth seed with two games remaining.

“It’s extremely difficult to win any game in the NBA, let alone go in someone else’s building and carve out a win,” New Orleans coach Willie Green said. “I don’t necessarily have the answers, to be honest with you, of how we’re doing it. But we are. We’re going to take those positives and keep trying to build on them. It’s good to know that we can go on the road and be together and win games at a high level.”

De'Aaron Fox had 33 points and eight assists, but Sacramento lost for the fourth time in its last five games and lost its chance to avoid the play-in tournament. The Kings (45-35) are tied with the Lakers and Warriors for eighth.

“If we could’ve finished in sixth, I wanted that more than anything else,” Sacramento coach Mike Brown said. “Or fifth. But at the end of the day, this is where we are, and let’s frickin’ go get it and let’s learn and grow from it and see what happens, at the end of the day. But I’m excited about any opportunity to play in the postseason.”

Harrison Barnes added 22 points, and Domantas Sabonis had 18 points and 10 rebounds for his 75th double-double, the most by any player in a season since Moses Malone had 77 in 1978-79.

The Pelicans used an 18-0 run to build a 34-11 lead, but Sacramento responded with 15 straight points to get back within eight early in the second quarter.

New Orleans led 64-58 at the half and never trailed in the game. The Pelicans shot 57% from the field and made 22 of 40 3-pointers.

“They hit us first,” Fox said. “I think they got into us. I think we got some good looks that didn’t go down, too. But I think they controlled the game from the start.”

Sacramento shot 55% and made 16 of 38 3s.

New Orleans was without forward Brandon Ingram for the 11th straight game, though he is nearing a return from a left knee bone contusion.

Pelicans forward Larry Nance Jr. also missed the game for personal reasons.

Kings center JaVale McGee was out due to illness.