Jrue Holiday bricks a 3 and that does it. Spurs win their third in a row, 121-117. Zion Williamson does not disappoint in his debut, putting together an amazing fourth quarter. He finishes with 22 points, seven rebounds and three assists on 8-11 from the field and 4-4 from 3 in 18 minutes. LaMarcus Aldridge leads the Spurs with 32 points and 14 rebounds.
Well, that did not disappoint. After a bit of a slow start, Zion Williamson put on an absolute show in the fourth quarter of his NBA debut on Wednesday night, helping lead a huge comeback for his New Orleans Pelicans. Ultimately, his team fell short, as the San Antonio Spurs escaped with a 121-117 win, but the No. 1 pick showed he was worth the hype.
During an electric three-minute stretch, Williamson poured in 17 points and drilled four 3-pointers to bring the Pelicans back from a 12-point deficit entering the fourth, and give them the lead with just a few minutes to play. Twice during the stretch, Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry had to bring substitutes back from the scorer's table because Williamson was playing too well to be subbed out, and by the time he did come out of the game, he was receiving "M-V-P!" chants from the crowd.
The Pelicans fell short, but no one will remember or care, because Williamson showed all the dynamism everyone was hoping he would bring to this team. He finished with 22 points, seven rebounds and three assists on 8-of-11 shooting, though he did also add five turnovers. While there were clear stretches of rust, the talent and burst were clear.
As for the Spurs, they secured the win thanks to another huge night from LaMarcus Aldridge. The veteran big man was unstoppable at times, pouring in 32 points and grabbing 14 rebounds to lead his team to their third straight win. As a result, they're now up to 20-23 , on the season and have possession of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Here are some key takeaways from the night's action:
Zion is electric
We can get to his actual play in a bit, but it's important to note just how fun that was. This guy is the most hyped prospect to enter the league since LeBron James back in 2003, is coming off a dominant college season at Duke and hasn't played a real game in three months due to knee surgery. He has more pressure on him to perform than just about any rookie ever in their first game, and he comes out and does that. Sure, he looked a little rusty early on, but that stretch in the fourth quarter was electric. The crowd was serenading him with "M-V-P" chants! Alvin Gentry had to keep pulling substitutes back to the bench because Williamson was playing too well to get taken out! He hit four 3s in a row, and was finishing nasty lobs! It was awesome!
We all knew that Williamson was different, but this was a great reminder of just how fun it is to watch him play. The guy is just special, and hopefully he stays healthy for a long time.
Slow start, dominant finish
OK, now let's get a little bit more in-depth on what we actually saw from the No. 1 pick on the court. Early on he played it pretty cool. While the Pelicans definitely tried to get him involved early, he wasn't forcing anything, and didn't do much of note in his first few stints on the floor. He had a few nice passes, grabbed an offensive rebound for a basket and made a few turnovers, but nothing too memorable. It was clear he was just trying to shake some rust off and get back into the rhythm of actually playing basketball.
In the third quarter, he forced the action a little bit more, often to poor results. He looked a little confused when the Spurs were playing off of him, and over-dribbled into a few turnovers. But in the fourth quarter, he simply took over. He had an incredible rebound and push ahead pass to E'Twaun Moore for a layup, and when the Spurs backed off he was shooting with confidence and caught fire from downtown. The first few were wide open from the top of the key, but the final one, a jab-step pull-up over Aldridge from the wing was incredible.
There were definitely some signs that he hasn't played real basketball in months, but overall it was a tremendous debut from the big man. Most importantly, his burst was still there, as was evident on one sharp baseline drive, an incredible rebound and another tough finish for a lob. His main export is athleticism and it was clear he hasn't lost that aspect of his game after the surgery.
LMA is still really good
The Spurs have been weirdly not good this season, and LaMarcus Aldridge is not the most exciting player to watch. So he may have faded a bit from the basketball world's collective consciousness, but that guy is still really good. In case you haven't been paying attention, he's putting together another strong season, averaging 19.1 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game, while shooting 50.6 percent from the field, 43.2 percent from 3 and 84.3 percent from the line. His free throw percentage probably isn't going to be good enough, but that's awfully close to the 50-40-90 club, which is not really a statistical grouping designed for big men.
Against the Pelicans, he was an absolute force. Poor Derrick Favors might as well have not even been out on the court in the first half, as Aldridge got off to a strong start. While the Pels tried to switch things up in the second half by putting young Jaxson Hayes on him to make him deal with more length, and even sending multiple defenders at times, there's was no stopping Aldridge in this game. He just kept grinding out baskets, and finished with 32 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks.
Also, even though he went 1-of-4 from deep in this game, it's worth pointing out that he's shooting 47.1 percent from 3 on 5.2 attempts per game in January. That's incredible for anyone, but especially a big man who has only attempted more than 100 3s in a season twice in his entire career.