PHILADELPHIA–New Orleans Pelicans star Zion Williamson is a load. There isn’t much that a defender can do when the barrel-chested young man begins to go downhill and the Philadelphia 76ers had a tough time defending him all night.
The Sixers prevailed 120-111 over the Pels at home, but Williamson did not play in the fourth quarter as he left with a hamstring injury. In three quarters, he was masterful as he had 26 points on 10-for-12 shooting with seven assists and six rebounds.
Despite those dominant numbers, coach Doc Rivers believed the Sixers defended him better than they did in the loss on Friday in New Orleans.
“He’s tough,” said Rivers. “I thought way better today (Monday). I thought the game plan of bringing Joel (Embiid) over and making him skip it, we did a much better job today on him than we did in the first game, for sure. Even though he still played—he’s tough.”
Sure, bringing Embiid over deterred him a little bit, but Williamson still destroyed any game plan the Sixers came up with. One could say that if he played in the fourth quarter, the Pelicans probably win that game. The Sixers only led 84-81 after the third quarter when he left the game so it’s hard to agree with Rivers’ assessment.
“He’s going to the basket playing aggressive,” said James Harden. ” There’s not really much you can do. You try to do a really good job of sliding your feet and using verticality. I think, for the most part, we did a really good job of that.”
Either way, Williamson is a tough player to defend and the Sixers could not really find an answer for him. He went through every defender Philadelphia tried to throw at him and blew up any scheme they tried to come up with.
“And he’s athletic,” Harden added. “He’s able to jump and figure it out in the air. A special player.”
At the end of the day, the Sixers got the win so that’s what’s most important, but they did get lucky that Williamson was unable to play in the fourth quarter.
“We could have been better,” said Embiid. “Obviously, foul trouble kind of limits you a little bit, but he’s a big-time player to stop. Especially, going downhill, but I thought we did the best job possible.”
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