The Philadelphia 76ers did not get a chance to see New Orleans Pelicans phenom, Zion Williamson, in his rookie season in 2019-20. He was hurt in the one matchup the teams had in December 2019 and the second matchup got wiped out due to the season suspension.
They got a full taste of the now second-year star out of Duke on Friday.
Williamson was a beast in the paint all night long and he had 37 points, 15 rebounds, and eight assists to lead the Pelicans to a 101-94 win. He was aggressive all night shooting 15-for-28 and he was 7-for-11 from the line as he really set the tone for them all night long.
“He’s just growing up,” said coach Doc Rivers. “He’s so young still, but his speed and power are unseen. We did a terrible job on him tonight. We gave him every angle and everything he wanted, but you have to be great to take him. I thought every mistake we made, Zion took advantage of tonight.”
Tobias Harris was one other many defenders matched up against him in this one and he was surprised at how physical he was.
“37 points, 15 rebounds, eight assists, that challenging, to be honest,” said Harris. “He’s as physically gifted as they come, and his physicality and the way he can use his athleticism to get downhill, make powerful plays, it’s huge. I mean this was our first game versus them this year – versus him really, but he’s the real deal.”
It was the way Williamson scored, really. He was finishing around Joel Embiid, he was powering through Harris and Ben Simmons, and he was also agile enough to knock down a floater or two. It was just an overall great performance for him.
“He has the size and the speed and the agility out there to make plays downhill that it was tough all night for us,” Harris added. “When I bring up the physicality, it’s a real thing, but that’s a strong dude coming at you.”
It was clear that the Sixers had no answers for him all night long and it was a great performance for him. Rivers will give credit where it’s due, but he also won’t be happy with him after his team lost.
“He played terrifically, and he’s a great kid,” Rivers finished. “I know him a little bit. I wasn’t happy for him tonight honestly, but he’s a load. You have to game plan, and you have to have the right game plan to deal with him.”
The Sixers now continue the road trip against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday.