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Zion’s Debut, 4th Quarter Super Hot Streak Not Enough as Pelicans Lose 121-117 to Spurs

Williamson scored 17 straight to give NOLA the lead; finishes with 22 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Zion Williamson played his first career NBA regular season game tonight, starting at power forward, before turning into liquid fire at center in the 4th quarter.

He played 18:18 in his heavily-anticipated January affair, bringing the most athleticism, confidence, and effort in his last shift when he scored 17 straight points for the Pelicans to give the home teamers a lead they’d lose in the last 5:23.

The box score rings up: 22 points (8-11 FG, 4-4 3FG, 2-4FT), 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 5 turnovers in a 121-117 loss at home against the recently-better San Antonio Spurs. Williamson left fans wanting more (MORE! MORE!) in his first three quarters, but got the place jumping when he made 4 straight from beyond the arc to put the Pelicans ahead 107-106.

He came out, Aldridge (32 points, 14 rebounds) stayed great, and the Spurs kept their heads.

Zion Blog

When the game first starts, Zion looks gigantic. There, I said it.

Sure is easy to “guard” Trey Lyles, huh?

One of the first times he got the ball, the crowd begged for a shot or rim attack. He didn’t force it on that possession, simply getting the ball to the next spot.

8:09 1st Quarter: ZION LEAVES having played the first 3:51. He went 0-1, with 1 assist, and 1 turnover.

Zion’s very first highlight as a pro came on an assist, with a quick look from the post as LaMarcus Aldridge came to double him in the paint. Williamson made a lefty overhand pass to a cutting Ingram for a dunk.

10:35 2nd Quarter: Wanna see Zion’s first basket? Sure you do.

It was an alley-oop, double-flip... no, wait. No, it was just an offensive rebound and putback in traffic.

It’s halftime and Zion finished the half with 8:11 played, 2 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist and 2 turnovers. (Meanwhile, Brandon Ingram was 2-11 with 8 points at half, well off the usual high level of play he’s exhibited in his All-Star Game push.)

Zion again starts the half and we’re underway.

10:48 3rd Quarter: Zion gets a guard switched onto him before Aldridge notices and offers himself up as a burn victim. Zion easily whizzes past Aldridge to get to the hoop where he’s fouled and makes 1 of 2 free throws.

9:09 3rd Quarter: Zion fumbles then collects a pass from Jaxson Hayes and makes layup; it was a-very nice!

8:55 3rd Quarter: I’d say allowing a Trey Lyles uncontested dunk counts as a carleess defensive possession.

8:40 3rd Quarter: Z runs into Dejounte Murray (somehow?) for a turnover, which leads to an and-1 for the All-Defensive Team guard.

8:30 3rd Quarter: Zion comes out :( He’s got: 5 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, and 4 turnovers.

Things get better here in the 4th quarter. Zion starts the quarter at the 5 against Jakob Poeltl, and on the first possession attacks him with a spin move, lefty jump hook that misses. A few possessions later, Zion unleashed those hops we’ve been missing.

That’s when it sent the SKC crowd into a tizzy, as Williamson drained 4 3-pointers and made a tough lob to suddenly become the Pelicans leading scorer, raising his total to 22 before exiting with 5:23 left.


Quick Team Sports Mention

In the matter of win or loss, the Pelicans were led by seven guys who hit double-figures, and Ingram matched Zion with 22 points; he started 2 of 11 and was able to find his shot in the second half. Lonzo Ball added 14 points, eight rebounds and 12 assists.

Everything about the game came with noise — all of it due to one Next Great Thing. This was one of those hyper produced television events with Zion talk starting the ESPN game prior, a nice Toronto win versus last year’s four-bounce losers Philly. Everything is Zion; Zion is everything.

It’s probably going to serve everybody well—Zion, front office, coaches, teammates, media, fans—to ensure he isn’t viewed as Today’s Savior. At this point, I just wanna see him start with this type of confidence in Friday.

More Spurs Later

There’s three more Spurs matchups for the Pelicans starting March 18 - each of those games could play a huge part in determining who makes the west’s weak 8-seed. It looks as if OKC has 7 absolutely locked down and headed right for a collision course with Russ-ful Houston at the 6th spot. Meanwhile, one of SEVEN teams can get that final playoff slot.

As you certainly already know, Zion will play again Friday, 7 p.m. at the Smoothie King Center against the Denver Nuggets.