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New Orleans Pelicans give Zion Williamson keys to offense, drive away with win

NEW ORLEANS — The New Orleans Pelicans’ experiments with Zion Williamson as their major ball handler this season have principally been relegated to him getting a rebound and pushing it up or the crew going with it off of useless balls and free throws.

However Friday evening in opposition to the Philadelphia 76ers, with place to begin guard Lonzo Ball out with a hip damage, Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy determined it was time for a heavier dose of “Level Zion.”

“Tonight, we simply determined we have been going to play him on the level all evening,” Van Gundy stated. “No less than so long as he might go. He had the ball in palms on a regular basis and the flexibility to make performs and the whole lot else.”

The consequence was maybe the very best sport of Williamson’s profession: 37 factors (two off his profession excessive), a career-high 15 rebounds and a career-high-tying eight assists, all in a 101-94 win.

“He performed the sport the way in which you are alleged to play the sport. He was simply super,” Van Gundy stated.

In accordance with ESPN Stats & Data analysis, Williamson, 20, turned the youngest participant in league historical past to have not less than 35 factors, 15 rebounds and eight assists in an NBA sport.

“It simply feels pure to me,” Williamson stated of getting the ballhandling duties placed on his shoulders. “I have been enjoying the sport since I used to be 4. At this level, it simply feels pure. I am nonetheless studying, however sure issues simply really feel pure.”

Whereas the Pelicans actually began to lean into Williamson because the initiator of the offense in early February, Friday’s sport marked a giant distinction. In accordance with Second Spectrum information, Williamson introduced the ball up 35 instances, probably the most he is carried out all season. His earlier finest was 25. Additionally, he introduced it up 12 instances within the fourth quarter, tied for probably the most he is had in a single quarter.

Williamson stated his confidence has grown prior to now two months and credit his stepfather, Lee Anderson, and Pelicans assistant coach Teresa Weatherspoon for that. Weatherspoon was additionally partly chargeable for Williamson’s pull-up jumper on the baseline within the fourth quarter that despatched the Pelicans’ bench right into a frenzy.

“Yeah, I’ve that in my bag. I simply, that is what [Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski] stated, that I wish to be a perfectionist,” Williamson stated. “I wish to get the closest and best shot. However my teammates and particularly T-Spoon. She stated, ‘Z, simply gimme one. In the event you do not prefer it, you do not have to shoot it once more.'”

“Once I shot it, it felt good. I favored the consequence, to be sincere. She tells me each sport, however tonight, she was like, simply give me one. I attempted. And it labored.”

Whereas the Pelicans went to Williamson extra out of necessity Friday with Ball out, it is one thing New Orleans will go to extra usually anyway.

“We wish to get him extra expertise with that stuff going ahead as a result of I believe that is the place his future is on this sport,” Van Gundy stated. “I actually do. “He simply wants reps and increasingly and we have elevated it all year long giving him increasingly alternatives. We would like to offer him extra going ahead. We’ll attempt to construct some extra issues for him.”

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