Zion Williamson posts up vs. LaMarcus Aldridge

Postgame wrap: Spurs 121, Pelicans 117

Pelicans (17-28), Spurs (20-23)
by Jim Eichenhofer
@Jim_Eichenhofer

Zion Williamson packed enough excitement for an entire night into one quarter Wednesday, but it wasn’t quite enough for New Orleans to get what the No. 1 pick sought most in his NBA debut: a victory.

“It was good to get back out (on the court),” he said. “But I didn’t get the outcome I wanted.”

After scoring five points through three quarters, Williamson drained four straight three-pointers in the fourth and tallied 17 consecutive New Orleans points, lifting the Pelicans back into the hunt. Three-point shooting isn’t exactly what the high-flying Williamson is known for, but during a furious fourth-period rally, he fired up the Smoothie King Center crowd with a barrage of long-distance buckets.

Overall, Williamson’s first official night as a pro featured 22 points, seven rebounds, three assists and 8/11 shooting in 18 minutes of action.

IT WAS OVER WHEN…

Jrue Holiday’s very deep three-pointer from straightway bounced off the back of the rim and San Antonio collected the defensive rebound, then dribbled out the final few seconds of a road victory. LaMarcus Aldridge recorded two of the biggest points of the game when he was fouled with 45 seconds left, then sank two free throws for a four-point lead. Neither team scored again after Aldridge’s charity tosses.

PELICANS PLAYER OF THE GAME

Williamson converted two opportunistic baskets in the first half and scored five points, but the Pelicans felt that he was deferring a bit too much to his teammates. At halftime, fifth-year head coach Alvin Gentry spoke to Williamson about being “more aggressive and I wanted him to enjoy the moment.”

The 19-year-old responded by becoming the first player in NBA history to be perfect from three-point range in four or more attempts in his professional debut. He added a pair of two-point baskets and a free throw during his 17-point period.

“What you saw there is a taste of (his ability), once he really gets settled in,” Gentry said of his fourth-quarter showcase. “You can see that there are a lot of things we can do with him, a lot of potential there. It was good to see him do that. I just think there is a really, really high ceiling that he can reach.”

BY THE NUMBERS

0/8: New Orleans three-point shooting in the first quarter, which set the tone for a night when the Pelicans did not shoot them well, aside from an unexpected outing by Williamson. The Pelicans were 10/32 from the arc if you exclude Williamson’s contribution.

44-41, 11-14: San Antonio slight edges in rebounding and (fewer) turnovers, which helped the Spurs gain extra possessions in their four-point victory.

14, 8, 12: Points, rebounds and assists for Lonzo Ball in a near-triple-double. Ball also led New Orleans in plus-minus at plus-7.

#WESTERNCONFERENCEWEDNESDAY

In recent weeks, New Orleans has drastically improved its conference record, winning six of 10 games since late December, after starting the campaign 6-14 in that category. Since Christmas, the Pelicans have taken down the likes of Denver, Houston, Utah and Memphis, so Wednesday’s poll question was “Which of those four victories was most impressive to you and why?” The Jan. 16 overtime win over the Jazz was the landslide winner, garnering over 60 percent of votes on Twitter, at least partly due to the circumstances surrounding the outcome. According to @devinhodo, the list of reasons included that NOLA ended Utah’s 10-game winning streak; the Pelicans were without several key players; and it was an adversity-filled night, including Donovan Mitchell being nearly unstoppable and a call going against the home team with 0.2 seconds left in regulation. Meanwhile, @corey_prevost tweeted, “I went with Denver. Dominated a top Western team on national TV. I can see how most people would choose the Jazz. That win was visceral.” The Dec. 25 win on Denver’s home floor picked up the second-most votes.

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