Zion Williamson is going to make the most of his minutes limit. If Williamson wasn’t going to play a full workload, he was going to get in a ton of shots when he was on the court.
On Monday, that strategy worked. Williamson put up 23 points in the team’s 109-99 win over Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies. Williamson went 9-of-21 from the field, leading the Pelicans in both categories. He also played 25 minutes, a significant improvement over his previous two contests — when he played 29 minutes combined.
Williamson was happy about that, saying he “felt alive again” after getting more playing time Monday.
Zion Williamson wins the rookie battle with Ja Morant ... for now
If Williamson was fatigued by the larger workload, he didn’t show it. Williamson made some standout plays in the contest, including an excellent alley-oop from Lonzo Ball.
ZION OOOOP 😳 pic.twitter.com/Vr1BOck8eN
— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) August 3, 2020
Williamson was also effective without the ball, setting strong screens and dishing out a career-high five assists.
Zion: absolute brick wall screen 🧱
JJ: BANG 🔥
Pels +10 📈 pic.twitter.com/kBfYBJrcG4
— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) August 4, 2020
While Morant will likely take home the Rookie of the Year award, he struggled against Williamson and the Pelicans. Morant went just 5-of-21 from the field, finishing with 11 points. The Pelicans routinely left Morant open on the perimeter, forcing him to take 3-pointers. Morant went 1-of-10 from beyond the arc.
Zion Williamson keeps Pelicans’ playoff hopes alive
With the win, the Pelicans keep their playoff hopes alive in the Western Conference. The team, which sits in 11th, is fighting to move into — at the very least — the ninth spot in the conference. If the Pelicans can accomplish that, the team would force a play-in series with the eighth seed in the West. That eighth spot currently belongs to the Grizzlies. After Monday’s win, the Pelicans sit a game back of the San Antonio Spurs for the ninth spot in the West.
Following the contest, Williamson said Monday’s win was big because it “gives the team a start” toward securing a playoff spot with just five games to go.
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