Zion Williamson explodes in 4th-quarter in NBA debut

Zion Williamson, alero de los Pelicans de Nueva Orleáns, festeja tras atinar un triple ante los Spurs de San Antonio, el miércoles 22 de enero de 2020 (AP Foto/Gerald Herbert)

The most awaited NBA debut since 2003 was almost a dud for three quarters. Then, he exploded.

Zion Williamson only scored five points in his first 11 minutes as a pro in the New Orleans Pelicans' game against the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday.

Then, the  Pelicans rookie sensation went ito beast mode in the fourth quarter.

Williamson scored 17 straight points in a three-minute span which brought the home crowd  in frenzy as their new hero lit up

The late-game effort came up short though as the Spurs still won, 121-117. Pelicans fans didn't mind because it seemed like they saw their future.


Williamson made the most of his short time on the court as he finished with 22 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 nice assists in 18 minutes of acton.

It was Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry's decision to limit his star's minutes as hein his first action since undergoing knee surgery on Oct. 21.

What was most impressive is the damage Williamson madefrom behind the arc. He made all four 3-point attempts during his fourth-quarter outburst.

Zion "playing so conservative"

“He’s gonna be fine,” Gentry said in an interview during the game. “Right now he’s just playing so conservative. He won’t be that way,” he added.

It was when the Pelicans coach said those words that Williamson started to find his rhythm. He seemed frustrated after turning the ball over
 five times and spending most of his time on an exercise bike to keep his surgically repaired knee warm.

It lit a fire in Williamson as he exploded at the 9:30 mark of the fourth quarter.

Heating up

Williamson powered his way to steal a defensive rebound from Spurs center Jakob Poeltl and started a fast break that ended with an assist on an E'Twaun Moore layup.

It was the trademark "bully ball" aggressiveness on both ends that made him the No. 1 pick in the draft.

Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich called a timeout but almost backfired as the break also refueled Williamson.

Williamson fires up

Williamson didn't hesitate to shoot a 3-pointer the first chance he got. He nailed his first attempt which ignited a series of some more.

He scored an athletic alley-oop layup in traffic in the next play before hitting another 3-pointer. Poeltl blocked Williamson's next attempt in the low post but outmuscled a pair of Spurs defenders for the rebound and putback.

The New Orleans crowd were at their feet as Williamson single-handedly cut a 14-point third-quarter deficit to one as the Spurs lead 109-108.

It was Gentry's decision to pull his rookie out for good with 5:23 remaining as he chose losing the game rather than losing something as big as his future star. 

Gentry said before the game that he plans to use Williamson in short bursts and stuck to it  limiting his rookie to not more than seven minutes at a time.

The future has arrived

A lot of hype surrounded Williamson's NBA debut regardless of which team he landed on. It was the most of any rookie since LeBron James in 2003.

New Orleans got lucky as they did not have to allegedly lose games on purpose to land the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA draft. They didn't hesitate to get the phenomenal rookie out of Duke.

Williamson had to miss the early part of the season after suffering a meniscus tear in the preseason. He was cleared to return by mid-December but chose to feel his body out first. 

The 45-gmae wait paid off as Pelicans fans understood the bigger picture. Not a single fan was disappointed despite the loss. 

Everyone knows the mistake of not being cautious on a prized rookie.

Can Williamson stay healthy through the remaining games of the season? Can he still make his case for Rookie of the Year late into the season? Tell us your thoughts.