Feb. 26 (UPI) -- LeBron James scored a season-high 40 points and showered New Orleans rookie Zion Williamson with praise after his Los Angeles Lakers knocked off the Pelicans at Staples Center Tuesday night.
James made 17 of 27 field goal attempts and 5 of 11 from 3-point range in Los Angeles' 118-109 win. Williamson -- the No. 1 overall pick in last year's NBA Draft -- scored 29 points. The former Duke phenom has scored at least 20 points in all but three of his games so far this season, after he had to sit out the first three months with a knee injury.
"He's playing exceptional basketball," James said of Williamson. "I think every game he's going to get better and better, just having that experience.
"I think today's game is a perfect fit for his game. The high pace, the way they play it fits his game. The speed, running up and down and playing at that speed, they move the ball."
Lakers star Anthony Davis had 21 points and 14 rebounds against his former team, and he also lauded the Pelicans rookie.
"It was fun, he's a great player, he's got a quick first step, very explosive," he said. "His second jump is unbelievable. There was some times we tried to foul him when he got by us and had an easy layup or dunk and he made free throws, so he's going to continue to get better and better.
"Obviously, this is his first year and they're fighting for a [playoff] spot, but as time goes on and he gets more experience with the game, he'll be fine."
New Orleans is currently 10th in the Western Conference standings, 3.5 games out of the eighth playoff spot. The Lakers are in first place with a five-game lead on second-place Denver.
Williamson, 19, is averaging 23.3 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 13 games this season. He played his first regular season game on Jan. 22 after being sidelined with a torn meniscus. James, 35, is averaging 25.5 points, an NBA-leading 10.6 assists and 7.7 rebounds per game.
"He's an incredible player," Williamson said of James. "He handled business. He did what he had to do to help his team get the win."
The Pelicans (25-33) next host the Cleveland Cavaliers at 8 p.m. EST Friday at Smoothie King Center and the Lakers (44-12) travel to face the Golden State Warriors at 10:30 p.m. Thursday at Chase Center in San Francisco.