Following a gutsy 108-103 victory, Zion Williamson let postgame media in on a little secret: the superstar fully expected for Lonzo Ball to make amends on his poor performance 24 hours earlier and be special on the second night of a back-to-back against the Golden State Warriors.
“I don’t usually say stuff like this, but Lonzo, he texted me last night,” Williamson said in postgame. “He just said, ‘My fault about last night, but I’ll be there tomorrow.’ I think that those are big words and it shows what he’s all about today. He came today and he showed out. A lot of respect for that.”
True to his word and in a game that the New Orleans Pelicans asked a lot from their starting point guard after losing Brandon Ingram to an ankle injury, Lonzo (33 points, six rebounds, four assists, seven 3s) darn near rivaled Stephen Curry (37 points, nine rebounds, two assists, eight 3s) Tuesday night.
But one would have never guessed an ending that close could be in the cards after reading the stat line through three quarters. Curry was sitting on 35 points while Ball trailed significantly with 21. Moreover, common knowledge dictates Steph is Steph and Lonzo’s offense comes and goes, even within a single contest.
To put it bluntly, Zo owned the fourth quarter in a game that he shared the floor with Zion Williamson and Stephen Curry. That feels almost blasphemous to type — yet it really, truly happened.
Ball scored 12 points in the final frame — doubling the combined scoring output of Steph and Z — AND defended Curry sublimely, limiting maybe the best NBA shooter of all time to just two points.
Of course, the supernatural may have been partly responsible, too.
No lie, the lights briefly dimmed right when Curry had possession of the ball and he had just found some airspace to shoot. Everyone in the arena expected for him to find the bottom of the net in the next couple of seconds, but fate may have intervened.
Friendly spirits inside the Smoothie King Center?? Now that would make for a welcome change around here!
In addition to losing Ingram (13 points, five assists) midway through, Steven Adams (eight rebounds) was unable to return after taking his first rest of the second half. While Jaxson Hayes, James Johnson and Naji Marshall failed to net a single three between them, each of their efforts were solid and necessary despite not dominating the boxscore.
However, there were a few highlights including this steal and breakaway dunk by Jaxson.
THAT'S JAXSON HAYES' MUSIC pic.twitter.com/t7EPRyBvQw— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) May 5, 2021
Behind Zo’s brilliance (3-4 FGA, 2-3 3PA, 4-4 FTA, 0 TOV), the Pelicans were able to dominate fourth quarter action, finishing the game on a 29-14 run.
The Warriors totaled only 46 points in the second half as the Pelicans defense held them to a 36.7 FG%, a 34.5 3PT% and one free throw attempt. ONE!
After committing 17 turnovers that led to 29 Golden State points last night, the Pelicans finished with 12 turnover which led to only seven points for the Warriors Tuesday.
Just a great all-around effort — signaling this Pelicans team hasn’t quit on this season.
“It is not like our team is going to die, or let go of the rope,” Stan Van Gundy said afterwards. “They have not all year, you guys have watched it. It is a resilient group. It is the third time in what, the last five or six games, that we have made really good comebacks late; Denver, Minnesota, tonight. This is a group that fights. Last night we took a beating, but we came right back tonight and got down nine in the second half and just kept fighting.“
Zion Williamson didn’t overwhelm the scoreboard, but his vast contributions were vital: 23 points (8-17 FGA, 7-8 FTA), 12 rebounds, seven assists and four steals. In particular, his biggest play of the night came on the defensive end.
With the Pelicans clinging to a 102-100 lead, Curry missed a 3-pointer, but Mychal Mulder came up with the offensive rebound for Golden State. In the very next instance, Zion ripped the ball out of his hands and the quick transition break that ensued led to a clear path foul, sealing the victory for New Orleans.
Hey, the season’s been disappointing, but the Pelicans aren’t dead yet. Since play-in tournament hopes remain alive, more meaningful games sit on the horizon. And tonight’s hero wasn’t one of the franchise’s two cornerstones.
Isn’t this the ultimate goal for a young, growing core that doesn’t have all the answers?
Yeah, there’s no chance I would rather trade these two hours spent in for more lottery balls in the upcoming draft.