NEW ORLEANS -- As he sat at his locker Friday night at the Smoothie King Center following a 116-104 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers, Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson heard a stat from teammate Jahlil Okafor that he couldn't believe.
Okafor told him how, after their game against the Golden State Warriors on Sunday, Williamson became the first player since Michael Jordan to have four consecutive games of at least 25 points while shooting at least 57% from the field as a rookie.
"Mike?!" an incredulous Williamson said.
When a reporter later mentioned the stat to him at the postgame news conference, Williamson turned to Pelicans security officer Chico Robinson for confirmation.
"Chico, my name's next to Michael Jordan?" Williamson, a Jordan Brand athlete, asked with a big smile.
After the stat was explained, Williamson said, "Wow, Jahlil was for real."
Even though the feat happened a couple of games before Friday's win, Williamson still understood what it meant.
"I mean, it's dope. I can't even lie," Williamson said. "One of my favorite players growing up. I said in some interview, my mom told me to study film of him so to be in that category, it means a lot."
Williamson's 25-point streak came to an end Friday night, when he finished with 24 against the Cavs, but he extended another one in the process, posting his 10th straight game with at least 20 points. Not only did Williamson, 19, become the first teenager in NBA history to pull off that feat, he broke a tie with another scoring great in Carmelo Anthony, who scored 20 points or more in nine consecutive games as a 19-year-old.
Williamson talked about watching clips of Jordan and Anthony growing up and said it was exciting to see his name next to theirs. But after he was asked about passing Anthony, he looked more toward the team's success.
"I think the world and the media, I think, is more happy for me than myself," Williamson said with another laugh. "Honestly, I don't even think much of it if I'm being honest. I just want to get the win. You know, my stepdad taught me growing up, you know, if the team has success then the individual things will follow. So I guess it's just one of those things."
The team success has come for the Pelicans lately. They were 5½ games out of the Western Conference's eighth playoff seed after the All-Star break, but Friday night's win coupled with Memphis' loss to Sacramento has the Pelicans sitting just two games behind the Grizzlies and in sole possession of ninth place in the West.
New Orleans has won six of eight games, and during that span the Pelicans have had at least 34 assists in five of those contests -- after only three games of 34 assists or more prior to that.
Pelicans point guard Lonzo Ball led the way with 12 assists on Friday, including a couple of full-court passes that Williamson converted at the rim.
"That's the great part about Lonzo," Williamson said. "He shows his IQ for the game. For him to come in every game with the threats and depth we have, and to facilitate the offense the way he does, you have to respect that. Hats off to him. He does a great job at it."
After getting off to rocky starts in the previous two games, Ball said it was an emphasis to start fast against Cleveland.
"The last couple of games we've come out pretty slow, so we wanted to change that tonight and I felt like that carried us throughout the game," Ball said.
To go along with the assists, Ball added 5 points, 6 rebounds, 4 steals and 2 blocks in what was one of his better all-around games of the season -- something Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry saw as well.
"I thought he did exactly what we would like to see him do as a point guard," Gentry said. "I thought he controlled the game. ... The pace of the game ... he dictated the whole thing. I thought he got out and did a great job with that, and as you said, I thought he did a great job of finding players. I thought we all did tonight."
Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram, who played with Ball in Los Angeles the past two seasons before the trade that brought them and Josh Hart to New Orleans, said he thought Ball's efforts on the defensive end also helped.
"Well, it goes unnoticed sometimes because he does it night in and night out and he's always anticipating the pass, he's always in the right spot, and his on-ball defense is really, really good," Ingram said. "So that's something that he's done every night and we kind of expect it out of him every night."