Finally, the race for the eighth spot in the Western Conference has become more interesting. Fans could probably see the Spurs bid goodbye to their Playoffs appearance streak. That is after the Pelicans won their game against the Grizzlies.
The Pelicans looked like their pre-lockdown selves in a commanding 109-99 win against the Grizzlies. Also, the restrictions on Zion’s playing time has been eased up. For all that it matters, their win could be directly correlated to the influence of Williamson in the game.
The young Pelicans team looked like a Playoff team prior to the lockdown. They locked down on defense and swished in shots with ease. Zion’s effect on the team was also visible because of his tenacious playing style. Unfortunately, COVID-19 got in their way, and they entered the bubble losing their momentum with two straight losses in the seeding stage.
It can’t be emphasized enough that each game is important in the seeding stage. It is most especially true for teams that want to punch their way in the Playoffs. The Pelicans do not have to target getting the eighth-best record. Instead, they just have to land on the ninth spot to earn their play-in chance against the eighth seed.
Fortunately, they are only one game behind the San Antonio Spurs for the spot after beating the Grizzlies down to the wire. Brandom Ingram was unstoppable with 24 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists. He sank bomb after bomb in the crucial moments of the fourth quarter to give the Pelicans a comfortable lead.
Zion Williamson also looked like he has regained the momentum he had before. He scored 23 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists in just 25 minutes of play. This is a good step forward as he only posted a total of 29 minutes of playing time in the Pels’ past two games. He attacked the bodies on the paint with so much power. Most of the time, he got blocked, but in the instances that he powered through, his defenders looked helpless against him.
After a short leash on Zion’s playing time, he said that he feels alive again because of the more generous time on the court. He was all over the court with solid screens and handoffs for J.J. Redick and Lonzo Ball to shoot wide open threes. He also looked spry on his knees with consistent boards and drive-by attacks.
Image from House of Highlights/ YouTube thumbnail
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