A new career-best night from Zion Williamson and throwback night from JJ Redick wasn’t enough as the New Orleans Pelicans lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder 123-118 in the Smoothie King Center the night before All-Star Weekend.
Zion had 32 points on an assortment of around-the-rim finishes and free throws. He has, perhaps, already become the team’s best offensive weapon. He went 11-of-19 from the field and 10-of-13 (LOL) from the line in 31:26. He had three offensive rebounds (six total) and three more turnovers. Hey, it’s alright, he’s 19. Redick had 24 points, despite poor three-point shooting for most of the night. More on him below.
Lonzo Ball had 16 points on five made threes, with six rebounds, five assists and four turnovers. His floorgame in the second half improved, but was hot from the 3-point line all night long.
Danilo Gallinari hit all the clutch shots, finishing with 29 points. He scored 11 points in just the last 4-plus minutes. This stays in line with, first of all, Gallo’s career as a premier offensive weapon. Secondly, the Thunder have been one of the best clutch teams all year, which is nearly a guarantee with Chris Paul as your squad’s point guard. Per Thunder PR, OKC is now 20-5 in clutch games since November 25, an incredible run. This is what they do.
OKC’s Dennis Schroder cemented his status as a scoring blur off the bench with 22, mostly just by cooking anyone we threw at him. Here’s where I mention that I like Lu Dort as their new defense-first 2-guard.
The Slow Boys: Sloth-GA and JJ Relaxed
This game featured a few guys who, not for a lack of effort, move a tad slower than the platonic ideal of an NBA star. Sure, Zo, Hayes, Zion and Schroder are lightning bolts, but JJ Redick, E’Twuan Moore (four rebounds, two assists, one steal, one block), and NBA All-Star Weekend Participant Nico Melli (three blocks tonight!!! Six points, three rebounds, too) level out the pace for the Pels.
OKC’s All-Star Weekend Participant Shai Gilgeous-Alexander isn’t exactly the fastest athlete but my oh my is he patient, skilled with the ball, and balletic with his combination of footwork and confident dribbling. Basically, if he can keep his dribble live long enough he’ll find a crease to squeeze in and make a nifty, extended offer at the rim. Or simply take and make step-back mid-rangers and threes. Love this guy.
Podcast Hero JJ Redick surprised many by attacking off the dribble, especially prior to banging heads with Terrence Ferguson. He hit a fadeaway off the dribble and later drove to earn free throws and made important passes, too!
The second half would only spotlight Redick more — it was like he was back at Duke, running pick and rolls with Zion and, at least once, taking a Thunderman out of his shoes with pump fakes. Sometimes he may look harried, but he’s a vet and knows where the ball needs to be.
(Even JJ Redick highlights are somehow Zion Williamson highlights.)
That was a fun, fun Redick game. Check this pass to NBA All-Star Weekend Snub Jaxson Hayes.
This has been your nightly Jaxson Hayes' highlight. pic.twitter.com/Cu4XvXskFt— Preston Ellis (@PrestonEllis) February 14, 2020
There’s more to Redick’s game than catching and shooting!
Steven Adams, the baddest, roughest, realest big in the NBA didn’t have too many shots at Zion in the first half. One time out of a timeout, Zion bulled the Kiwi under the hoop and made an and-1; there weren’t many other action-packed rim-adjacent battles. It’s gonna be hard to compare to all the chances Zion had against Giannis and the Lopez’s last week.
Zion doesn’t care who’s down there, though. He’s going to the rim, finding a body, and putting his hand up for a pass. Or he’s watching as a guard drives, waiting for his time to gallop towards the paint and catch a pass on the move.
IF — and this is a huge “if” — those passes are completed, it’s one of the most sure things in the NBA since January 22. He’s scoring, getting fouled, or missing before getting his own offensive rebound. How is a 19-year-old bodying these grown men time and time again?
He’s Zion, that’s how.
The Pelicans won’t play for awhile folks! Enjoy Mardi Gras and NBA All-Star Weekend!