Zion Williamson 'felt alive again' after playing down the stretch in Pels win

Written By Liam Blackburn
Zion Williamson - cropped
Getty Images

Zion Williamson expressed his delight at being allowed to play during the decisive closing stages as the New Orleans Pelicans won their first game since the NBA season restarted.

The Pelicans had restricted the minutes for their star rookie in their first two games in Orlando, with Williamson on the bench as they fell to defeats to the Utah Jazz and the Los Angeles Clippers.

New Orleans had been following "medical advice" with the first overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft after Williamson - whose debut season has been disrupted by injury - had to quarantine for four days right before the campaign resumed last week having left the Florida 'bubble' to attend to a family matter.

But Williamson was allowed to play a greater role in the Pelicans' crucial 109-99 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday as he scored 23 points in 25 minutes, outshining fellow rookie star Ja Morant, who managed only 11 points and eight assists in 39 minutes.

"I felt alive again," Williamson told ESPN on being on the court at the end.

"My competitive spirit was there, and I'm glad coach [Alvin Gentry] and the whole team trusted me to finish the game out."

He later added: "I ain't gonna lie to you, it's just different in a bad way when I'm on the bench in the fourth quarter, and there's nothing I can do to help my team win.

"So I said I felt alive. It was just great to be out there doing whatever I can to help my team win. And as for the energy part, me and my team-mates can just feed off each other."

Williamson tied his career-high with five assists, as well as contributing seven rebounds, while his 21 field-goal attempts were an indication of a more aggressive approach.

"It was a little bit of both from myself and the coaching staff," Williamson said of taking more shots.

"They were telling me to try to give the team a spark and that's what I was trying to do, give my team a spark, get them going."

New Orleans are 2.5 games back of the Grizzlies, who own the eighth and final playoff spot for the Western Conference.

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