Zion Williamson’s journey to make up for his lacklustre performance in the NBA In-Season Tournament playoffs began against the league’s top-ranked team.
To say the least, he proved himself up to the task.
On Monday night, the New Orleans Pelicans beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 121-107. Williamson scored 36 points, which was the most he had scored all season, and CJ McCollum scored nine of his 23 points in the fourth quarter on three clutch 3-pointers.
Williamson said, “I can’t just sit back and do nothing.” I thought about being mean, so I did that. The people on my team trust me.
Following their 133–89 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in Las Vegas on Thursday night, the Pelicans had to show what kind of person they are in this game.
“That show was not good. You can see that without much trouble, Williamson said. “We were a little too careless before the game.” Not much thought or work went into it. We didn’t have a good time at that time.
Some NBA experts across the country made fun of Williamson after he scored 13 points on eight shots and only grabbed three boards in the loss to the Lakers. Someone said he looked out of shape, and someone else said he wasn’t tough enough against a LeBron James-led team that looked much more determined.
Williamson replied, “Thank you if it comes from a good place and their only goal is to see me do better.” “But if it comes from somewhere else, everyone can have their own opinion.” “That’s out of your hands.”
“That’s how it’s been since I was 16,” Williamson said. “I know that if I want to be one of the best players in the league, bad things will happen and we won’t win in a big game.” I’m just glad that we replied.”
With strong drives to the basket, Williamson got a lot of points against the Timberwolves. He often finished high off the glass to get past Minnesota centre Rudy Gobert’s long reach.
He said of Williamson’s touch around the basket, “Tough finishes over the best shot-blocking big in the NBA.” “Is it any tougher than this? This is the best defence in the NBA.”
One of Williamson’s best plays was a double-pump shot off the glass from the left side of the lane while Jaden McDaniels fouled him. It made the score 109-94 with 4:51 left. Williamson scored more than 30 points for the third time this season. He made 13 out of 17 shots and 10 out of 12 free throws.
“He was sharp, he was aggressive, he was very sure of himself, and he was locked in,” McCollum said. “He’s handling a lot of criticism very well.”
Anthony Edwards, the Wolves’ top scorer, missed the game because he hurt his right hip during Friday night’s win at Memphis.
With 2:35 left and the Timberwolves down by 14, Karl-Anthony Towns fouled out. He had 17 points and 12 rebounds to lead the team. Nine of Minnesota’s last ten games were wins, and Mike Conley and Naz Reid both scored 17 points.
Ingram scored 20 points and Valanciunas had 14 points and 13 rebounds for New Orleans. It was their first win in three games this season against Minnesota.
MN didn’t score for almost four minutes before they did in the fourth quarter. It was Conley’s three-pointer that cut New Orleans’ lead to 99-89.
It was only 99-91 for a short time before Williamson made a driving layup and Ingram made a comeback while getting fouled to make it 104-91. The Wolves didn’t make any more threats.
“He was a force tonight,” Timberwolves guard Jordan McLaughlin said of Williamson. “He played downhill and got into the paint.”
During the first half, Williamson, Ingram, and McCollum all scored at least 10 points. At the buzzer, Ingram made a bank shot from 31 feet out to give New Orleans a 59-52 lead.
At the end of the third quarter, McLaughlin made a half-court shot.