If you’re tuned in to Pelicans basketball, you see flashes of talent from young guys like Brandon Ingram and Nickeil Alexander-Walker.
But you’ll also see explosions at the rim thanks to the one and only Zion Williamson.
The Pelicans let Zion dominate the ball down the stretch last night and he scored or assisted on their final 14 points.— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) March 28, 2021
This is the way. pic.twitter.com/5PYrUirkul
But the layer that takes Z to all-universe is through his playmaking and attacking skills, growing by the week. You can tell his confidence is peaking and he’s making important decisions as THE guy in a close loss to Denver Thursday and a nice win against the shorthanded Dallas Mavericks on Saturday.
Go back and watch the tape, and you’ll see the ball in Zion’s hands in all sorts of actions but usually resulting in him taking off for a dunk or layup attempt. Free throws come in droves. Thursday against Denver, Zion made 16-of-19 shots and added 10 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 blocks, only further illustrating his understanding of the game and complete comfort on the floor.
During Saturday’s stirring late-game 112-103 win against Dallas, Zion’s celebratory screams after clutch Nickeil buckets identify him as a leader-type who cares for his teammates and wants to see the team win games in the late minutes. He was probably just happy to play well in a game where his teammates were also excellent.
"Williamson just throwing himself through our guys, it was just an impossible situation... He was a beast."— FOX Sports Southwest (@FOXSportsSW) March 28, 2021
Rick Carlisle speaks to the media after the Mavericks 112-103 loss to New Orleans. #MFFL pic.twitter.com/Odg0tADyvZ
Zion had indeed supported the whole offense for his 34 minutes, but in some earlier non-Zion minutes, guys like Josh Hart (10 rebounds), Alexander-Walker (31 minutes, 20 points, 6-10 3FG) and rookie Kira Lewis Jr. (13 points, 3 rebounds, 5 assists) all picked up the slack, as well.
Confidence may be gathering for the group, but in the NBA, you’re only as hot as your next game.
C’s About Average
Which brings us to Boston, certainly a tad restless at .500 (23-23) having just acquired... drumroll please: former Magic guard Evan Fournier. The French national will help this team generate more perimeter offense but they’re also going to be relying heavily on a) the tremendous All-Star wings they’ve already got, and b) a mix of young, old, and unproven.
Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are averaging about 25 points per game each, furthering the evidence that there are tons of high-scorers league-wide this year — 39 NBAers average 19 points per game or more. Marcus Smart helps out with his A+-defense, improved shotmaking and vital offensive style, but even with those guys in place, the Celtics have questions.
They’re defense ranks 22nd in Defensive Efficiency, and they’ve also gotta be near the top of the list in different lineups started and inconsistent time for everybody. They also missed out on all the big-name trade deadline targets, again, and traded beloved Daniel Theis. It may have made sense to explore former C’s big Al Horford, but the future is here.
There could be more 4-out, 1-in lineups with just Robert “Timelord” Williams in the middle.
He’s started the last two games, and should be the one to benefit for the long-term, minding of course that Tristan Thompson is always on the floor in the playoffs with a proven record of defensive excellence. Mo Wagner, once instrumental to Washington’s productive offense, is a new piece, and Tacko Fall hardly ever plays. So, yeah, the C’s oughta stick with Williams in the middle.
Timelord looks to be a big rebounder, shot-blocker and dunker, doing only what he excels at. He’s hung on the rim 69 nice times this year. Williams has tremendous advanced numbers, as well, including ranking 6th in the ENTIRE NBA in PER (LOL).
Huge caveat: Robert Williams is not the 6th best player in the league.
But is Zion? After a 40-piece tonight, we might say yeah!
When: March 29, 6:30 p.m. Central
Where to watch: NBATV
Where to listen: ESPN 100.3 FM