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.
Pelicans vs. Spurs score, takeaways: Zion Williamson shines late in NBA debut, New Orleans still falls short
Last year's No. 1 overall pick put on a show to close his NBA debut
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.
Ingram drives inside and gets smothered. Bad ending to a terrible night for him. He's just 6-22 from the field. Spurs miss on the other end though, so Pels still have a slight chance if they can score quickly here. 121-117 Spurs with 11 seconds left
Aldridge drills both free throws. Pels take a timeout to advance the ball, and will need a bucket here. Spurs up 121-117 with 45.6 seconds to play
Things have quieted down a bit here after Zion sat down but it's been a fun final few minutes. Both teams trading shots here. Lonzo and Josh Hart each hit two huge 3s. Aldridge just got fouled and is going to the line. Spurs up 119-117 with less than a minute to play
Pels call a timeout and Zion gets a standing ovation. He just rattled off 17 points in about three minutes and was getting MVP chants. He looks to be done for the night now, and if so will finish with 22 points, seven rebounds and three assists on 8-11 and 4-4 from 3. His debut was looking pretty forgettable and he turned it all around so fast. That was awesome
Alvin Gentry has twice had to pull subs back from the table cause Zion is playing too well. This is absolutely incredible. What a turnaround for the rook
MVP chants for Zion what is going on
Another one! OMG
Zion for 3 again!
Another 3! And another finish inside! Zion is on fire. This is electric. Pels within 3
And then he goes up and finishes a really tough lob. Great stretch for Zion
Zion takes his first perimeter shot of the night and drills a 3 from the top of the key. Crowd loves it, obviously
Whoa there's the Zion we were expecting. Soars for a monster rebound and then starts the break himself. Threw a nice hit ahead pass to E'Twaun Moore for a layup. His best sequence of the night so far
Spurs take a 94-82 lead into the fourth quarter. Zion's return was the main story going in, but Aldridge has taken over this game. He's dominating inside and Pels look a little disjointed. They're just 7-23 from 3 and have 13 turnovers. Those two areas are gonna be key if they want to turn things around here in the fourth. Need to take care of the ball and hit some shots or they wont have a chance
LaMarcus Aldridge got off to a bit of a slow start in the second half, due in part to the Pels sending multiple defenders at him, but he's heating up here at the end of the third. Just continuing to grind out baskets. He's not the most exciting but he's such a tough cover. Up to 26 and 12 on 10-of-17
Another bricked 3 by Ingram. His tough night continues. He's got 19 points, but is shooting just 5-18 from the field and 2-7 from 3. Again, gonna be interesting to see how he adjusts to Zion's return moving forward
If you missed Zion's first basket from earlier tonight, you can check it out here. Our own Brad Botkin with the write up
Nice little pull up in the lane by Dejounte Murray. I just love that guy's game. He's got 11 points on 4-8 shooting tonight. Spurs are up 79-67 with 5:34 left in the third quarter
A nice basket on the cut but also two turnovers in the last few possessions for Zion, as we see an early problem he'll have to solve. Spurs were backing way off on him and he seemed a little unsure of what to do. Both times he ended up dribbling too much and then turning the ball over. He just checked out by the way
Zion makes a really strong baseline drive and draws a foul. Great first step and burst to the basket. First time we've really seen him be aggressive. Goes 1-2 on the free throws
Okay everybody, here we go. Second half is underway and Zion is back on the floor
End of the first half here in Zion Williamson's NBA debut. Spurs lead 60-51 thanks in large part to LaMarcus Aldridge, who absolutely destroyed Derrick Favors down the stretch there in the second quarter. LMA has 16 points and nine rebounds, and the Spurs are 7-15 from 3. As for Zion, well, he hasn't done too much. Pels are definitely playing it safe and he's only played eight minutes. He hasn't tried to force anything, has one basket, thrown a couple nice passes, has a few turnovers. About what you would expect. Will be interesting to see if he forces the issue a bit more in the second half
Wow DEEP 3 by Bryn Forbes. Spurs are up 53-45 late in the second quarter. They're 7-of-15 from 3
Brandon Ingram comes up short on a layup. Really tough start for him in this game. He has five points on just 1-of-8 from the field. Will be interesting to see how he adjusts to Zion's return in the long run. He's spent the first half of the season dominating the ball at times, and that won't always be the case moving forward
Here's Zion's first bucket if you aren't able to watch the game:
Williamson checks out after his second stint. He was much more active this time around, and even played a few minutes of small-ball five. Scored his first points and made some nice passes. Only was able to get out and run once though -- did see his dynamism on that possession though, as he grabbed a board and motored down the floor before kicking out for an open 3 (which was missed)
43-28 Spurs at the 8:52 mark of the second. Focus has been on Zion since he checked back in, but Spurs have been carving the Pels up on the other end to start the second quarter. 12-4 run to start the frame, and most of them have been easy baskets
Zion tries to roll to the rim and gets called for a charge after running over Derrick White. Crowd erupted into loud boos lol
Zion crashes the offensive glass and then converts a putback for his first NBA points. Good hustle from the rookie
Zion back in the game to start the second quarter