The Sunday night matchup between the New Orleans Pelicans and the Los Angeles Clippers got off to a delayed start due to the early tip time on the West Coast. Things heated up after a slow start (18 points in the first quarter).
With big Zion Williamson back in the lineup, the Pelicans were able to pump up the tempo and defeat the Clippers 112-91 on Sunday.
Central Time Probably Caused Us To Snooze
In light of the Central time zone, we were probably just waking up from our siesta,” Pelicans guard CJ McCollum said after the victory. “There were a few breaks in the action that allowed us to escape and continue our flight. The game was simplified as a result.”
After missing the previous two games while recovering from a right posterior hip and lower back contusion sustained in a tumble against the Utah Jazz on October 23, Williamson returned to the lineup. Williamson was benched for the game’s last eight minutes, including overtime.
Against the Clippers, he returned to form by scoring 21 points, grabbing a career-high 12 rebounds, and dishing out seven assists.
Willie Green, coach of the Pelicans, expressed his delight at the player’s return. “I’ve mentioned this before, but every time he gets a touch on the ball, he makes the smart choice. That may be a goal for himself, or finding his teammates, sending the ball out, and carrying the play forward. Simply put, he excelled.”
The Pelicans, then coached by Stan Van Gundy, started employing Williamson more as a point guard during the 2020-21 season, allowing him to take charge of the offense and showcase his innate playmaking abilities.
Williamson believes he has improved as a playmaker since then. Williamson said, “I believe in the past I would rush it at times trying to spot the open pass.” “But now I’m simply going to let it grow. As soon as I sense a defensive movement in my direction, I allow it.
I know where to locate our team’s best shooters, and when I do, they consistently make all of their attempts.”
Green Found A Hole In The Clippers’ Defense
As a result of a flaw in the Clippers’ defense that Green and his staff identified, Williamson was able to make plays off his drives and jumpstart early possessions.
Green: “The thing that we did today, which we didn’t do a lot of, was put the ball in Z’s hands at the top, and he sort of played point guard for a bit for periods in the game to try to take advantage of some of the mismatches.”
“It just kind of occurred [during the game], but it’s something we’ve seen him do before and something we needed him to do today.”
McCollum, who scored a game-high 22 points, mentioned how great it was to have Williamson back on the field and praised Williamson’s passing.
McCollum characterized him as “aggressive.” “When it came to making the correct call for the game, he finished around the hoop. The weak side pass was something he sometimes attempted. Now he’s back on his feet. We started the attack. He was a great lift for us.”
Williamson Had A Career-High Five 3-Point Assists
Five of Williamson’s assists were on 3-pointers, matching his career best. The defense was falling apart, and he made the proper move. The Pelicans shot 7-of-11 off Williamson’s passes, according to Second Spectrum statistics.
“Everyone locks in on Z,” Pelicans forward Naji Marshall said. “The onus is all on us to take a good shot. He always seems to take the correct course of action.
To put it simply, he plays around. like [Brandon Ingram]. We have to take the plunge here. And I mean, adore it. I’m hoping he continues feeding me.”
Ingram (concussion), like Williamson, was injured for the Pelicans against Utah and remained out. Green said before kickoff that Ingram was in the preliminary phases of the concussion protocol.
Two more Saints players might return for Saturday’s game against the Lakers. For Sunday’s game against the Clippers, Herb Jones (right knee hyperextension) was listed as doubtful, but he was held out after going through warmup drills.
Guard rookie Dyson Daniels has been fighting a left ankle strain.
Green said that Daniels was “getting better.” “We’ll have some time off after this game, and I’m crossing my fingers that he’ll be ready to play against the Lakers. But unless we put him through some kind of drill and gauge his reaction, we won’t know for sure.”
Williamson, although still feeling a little pain following his accident, expressed a desire to resume his normal activities.
Williamson said, “I’ve had a lot of falls, but I ain’t never had a fall like that.” “But I could play with no problems. I plan on being on the court for basketball games unless I get a serious injury. And that’s simply who I am as a person.”