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Zion’s probable return a timely one for Pelicans matchup with Warriors

Golden State finally won a road game. Time to get back into the loss column.

Golden State Warriors v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

The New Orleans Pelicans have a chance to close out the current home stand with a very respectable 4-2 record and they should get a boost in the form of Zion Williamson returning to action. Standing in the way are the Golden State Warriors, who at long last eked out their first road victory of the season.

The Warriors beat the Rockets 127-120 last night in Houston, but it’s mildly shocking that the outcome was in real doubt until almost the final minute of regulation because the Splash Brothers went off.

Stephen Curry continues to show dominance, posting a line of 33 points, six rebounds, 15 assists, three steals and two blocks. He also connected on 7 of 13 from 3-point range. However, the bigger story was Klay Thompson, who at least for one game reminded viewers of his pre-injury, flame-throwing ability.

Thompson tallied 41 points on the strength of 10 made 3s in 13 attempts. His 60.9 field goal percentage marked just the second time this season he’s converted at least half of his shot attempts, but both instances have come in the last two games. He’s trending in the right direction, which could spell bad news for New Orleans.

The reason for writing could, it’s not likely that Thompson suits up. He’s yet to appear in a back-to-back set, sitting on the second night three times thus far. However, he mentioned several weeks ago that he’s close to being physically ready to take on the challenge of playing on consecutive nights.

“I also understand that we have a huge goal and that is winning a championship so maybe it’s not full throttle just yet, but as the season wears on and I get in that peak physical shape — which I’m very close to — it would be nice to play in some of those, Thompson said. “Maybe not all of them, but a good amount.”

When the Pelicans hosted the Warriors on Nov. 4, Thompson, Steph, Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins all rested, with New Orleans winning 114-105.

That contest marked the return of Brandon Ingram from a concussion and he shined, putting up an efficient 26 points. Monday’s matchup should feature the return of another prominent member of the New Orleans roster.

“As of now, I can say I’m definitely playing Monday,” Williamson said after Saturday’s practice. “I don’t see why I wouldn’t at this point. I’ve had enough time off of it and the pain seems gone at this point.”

Per yesterday’s injury report, Zion is listed as probable for the Warriors matchup.

Williamson landed on Usman Garuba’s foot early in the fourth quarter against the Rockets last week, and initially, he didn’t sense a problem. However, that all changed the following morning.

“I felt it a little bit, but it was nothing for me to be like, man this is really something crazy,” Williamson said. “I didn’t feel it until the next morning when I woke up and I felt like I could barely walk on it. I went and got all the scans. It was a simple little bone bruise, but now the pain is, like I said, really gone.”

Williamson did have a momentary flashback to when he broke his foot a few summers ago, but the dread quickly passed after imaging didn’t reveal any major concerns.

With Zion likely back in the fold, the Pelicans will have the services of the best volume isolation scorer in the league. Among players who run at least three iso’s per game, Williamson ranks at the top, ahead of known quantities like DeMar DeRozan, James Harden and LeBron James.

Furthermore, Zion is a force in post-up opportunities. Only Luka Doncic has proven to be a more efficient volume scorer on those play types.

If the regular starting lineup does take the floor, the Pelicans will have three players averaging over 11 drives per game (Williamson, Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum), two 20-point scorers (Williamson, Ingram) and everyone shooting the 3-ball incredibly well of late. Even Herb Jones has shaken his slow start and made 6 of his last 9 3-point attempts.

That’s a lot of weapons against a Warriors team that’s fielding the seventh-worst defense (113.4 DRTG) in the league and the New Orleans bench hasn’t even been mentioned yet.

Trey Murphy III is questionable to play after sustaining a right foot contusion against the Celtics, but Larry Nance Jr., Jose Alvarado, Naji Marshall and Dyson Daniels should be ready to make a positive impact, greater than the Golden State’s reserves.

According to, the Pelicans have the seventh-best bench. The Warriors, 21st.

New Orleans looks like the clear favorites on paper. The oddsmakers agree. Time to handle business. The Warriors may be the current world champs, but they haven’t given off those vibes much yet — especially on the road.

Who: New Orleans Pelicans (9-7) vs Golden State Warriors (8-9)

When: November 21, 2022, 7:00 p.m. CT

Where to watch: Bally Sports New Orleans, League Pass

Where to listen: WRNO 99.5

For more Pelicans talk, subscribe to The Bird Calls podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @OlehKosel.