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Pelicans stay ‘locked in’ to reach in-season tournament semifinals

New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson lauded his team-mates for staying “locked in” to overcome his own below-par performance and reach the NBA in-season tournament semifinals.

The Pelicans held off the Sacramento Kings for a 127-117 road win on Monday, teeing up a last-four meeting against the winner of Tuesday’s game between the Phoenix Suns and the Los Angeles Lakers.

Williamson managed just 10 points in 28 minutes on the court, well below his 2023-24 average of 23.5, but Brandon Ingram stepped up with a game-high 30 for New Orleans.

The Pelicans also had Herb Jones add 23 points and Jonas Valanciunas tack on 18 as they clinched their third win over Sacramento in the space of two weeks.

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Williamson was relieved to see others shoulder the offensive burden as he hailed the Pelicans’ spirit after their win, saying: “We just looked at each other like, ‘we’re straight’.

“With the shooters we’ve added, it definitely does take pressure off of me.

“I didn’t play too well, but we were still up 13, 18, late in the game. This just shows how locked in everybody is. Coach always talks about staying ready, and our guys stayed ready.”

New Orleans will now head to Las Vegas for their semifinal matchup, looking to book a place in Saturday’s final.

Coach Willie Green said of their achievement: “It’s a growth moment for us, to have an opportunity to be one of the first. This is the first time we’ve had the in-season tournament.

“You put a game in front of us that’s meaningful, I don’t care who it is, where it is, we want to win. That’s the type of heart that we have in that locker room.”

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