Zion Williamson did start the game but throughout much of the first three quarters, he was frequently and quickly subbed out not being allowed to get much of a rhythm going and seldom being allowed to break into anything more than a sprint. Then all of a sudden he turned it ALL the way up in the 4th. In the first three quarters, Zion had 5 points, he then proceeded to score 17 points in the next two game minutes, it was unbelievable how quickly he got so hot.
New Orleans Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry had to call the player he sent to the scorer’s table to check in for Zion twice because Zion was dominating so much.
What’s even more impressive about this Zion performance is that when he started his streak of 17 straight points, the Pelicans were down eight, by the time he scored his 17th straight, they were up one. He brought them back into the game.
He was subbed out shortly after the explosion and the Pelicans went on to lose, but man, in his limited minutes Zion put on an absolute show.
“Coach, I can win the game for this team. Leave me in,” he told Coach Gentry when he was being subbed out–showing just how much he wants to ball out with his teammates.
Zion finished with 22 points on 8/11 shooting 4/4 from three with 7 rebounds and 3 assists. One can only imagine how impressive the stat line may have been if Zion finishes that game. Even so, he still broke the Pelicans record for most points scored by a rookie in his debut. He’s also the first player in NBA history to go 4/4 on threes in his debut. Williamson did struggle with some turnovers in this game, he had five, but that’s likely because he was being too passive and trying to force it to his teammates.
Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry told ESPN that he talked to Zion at halftime to calm him down. “I told him I wanted him to be more aggressive and wanted him to enjoy the moment,” Gentry said. “Don’t take this lightly. It’s a great moment for you. It’s what you’ve worked for your whole life is to be able to walk out and play in an NBA game. So enjoy that moment and not to worry about it, and we’re gonna be fine as a team, and you’re gonna be fine as a player.”
And it certainly worked. The Pelicans might not make that coveted 8th spot in the playoffs and Zion will likely be on minutes restriction the rest of the season, but we’ve finally seen a glimpse of how special and explosive he can be during an actual NBA game, even more so against the formidable San Antonio Spurs.
You can possibly expect to see Zion again on Friday, January 23, when the Pelicans take on the Denver Nuggets at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans.
In the meantime, witness greatness by peeping the clip featuring all 17 of Zion’s points in a three-minute stretch.