|Zion drops 35, windmill 360 on Suns in Pelicans' win|
|Auto Refresh: Off | 15 | 30 | Refresh|
By BRETT MARTEL
NEW ORLEANS (AP) Zion Williamson capped a season-high 35-point performance with a 360-degree, one-handed dunk in the final seconds that upset Phoenix players, and the New Orleans Pelicans beat the Suns 128-117 on Friday night in a matchup of the top two teams in the Western Conference.
Players and coaches from both teams swarmed around one another angrily as officials frantically stepped in to separate them before both teams finally walked off opposite ends of the court, with Williamson gesturing triumphantly to roaring fans before disappearing down the tunnel to the locker room.
Jose Alvarado came off the bench to add 20 points for New Orleans, which had to hold on in the opener of a two-game series after the Suns hit 15 of their 22 made 3-pointers in the second half to erase a 16-point Pelicans lead.
CJ McCollum had 18 points for the Pelicans, who have won six straight and 11 of 13. Larry Nance Jr. added 17 points and nine rebounds, while Jonas Valanciunas overcame a 4-of-16 shooting night to finish with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Deandre Ayton had 25 points and 14 rebounds, and Chris Paul added 24 points for the Suns (16-10), who lost for the fourth time in five games to fall 1 1/2 games behind New Orleans (17-8) atop the Western Conference standings.
New Orleans led 85-69 when Naji Marshall hit the first of his two 3s in the second half, but Devin Booker and Damion Lee responded with back-to-back 3s and the Suns methodically chipped away with accurate perimeter shooting.
Torrey Craig's 3 tied it at 105 and Cameron Payne's deep 3 put Phoenix back in front 108-107.
But the Pelicans didn't fold.
McCollum responded with a 3 and Williamson intercepted Booker's pass and bolted the other way for a forceful one-handed dunk with 3:59 left. New Orleans did not trail again.
The game was a rematch of the first round of last season's playoffs, but with one big difference: Williamson in uniform. The intensity was high and the crowd engaged from the outset, heartily booing Paul while he handled the ball on the opening possession.
The Suns led by as many as nine late in the first quarter after Booker's breakaway dunk. But Alvarado, a fan favorite who had to leave Wednesday night's victory over Detroit with bruised ribs, checked in soon after. The crowd came alive when he trotted out on the court and went wild when he promptly sank a 3.
Alvarado scored 13 points in his first six minutes after coming off the bench, hitting three from deep in that stretch and also going one-on-one along the baseline against the 11-inch-taller Landale and spun in a layup.
As the half came to a close, Paul found Ayton underneath for a dunk, and Williamson responded with a layup, giving New Orleans a 55-52 lead at the break.
Suns: Shot 50% overall (43 of 86) and 50% from 3-point range (22 of 44), with Paul going 6 of 9 from deep. ... Craig and Booker had 14 points, Lee scored 12 nd Mikal Bridges 11.
Pelicans: Marshall finished with 14 points. ... Shot 51% (46 of 90) but just 8 of 27 from 3-point range. ... Outscored the Suns 72-38 in the paint.
More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports