The New Orleans Pelicans lost last night to the Dallas Mavericks to drop to 11-14 on the season. It was a close game at the half, but the Mavs turned a four-point lead into a 13-point lead by the end of regulation and left with a 143-130 victory.
Part of the reason they pulled away in the final two quarters was the lack of impact by Zion Williamson. The former No. 1 overall pick had only five field goal attempts and 13 points in the second half. That's not a *bad* performance, per se, but the Pelicans could have won if they fed Williamson appropriately in the final 24 minutes, because he was absolutely cooking.
In the first half of last night's contest, Williamson had 23 points. He shot 10-of-10 from the field. Didn't miss a damn shot. He was unbelievable in the paint, finishing anything and everything once he got into the restricted area. It wasn't just dunks, either. He has an unreal feel for how to play the angles available to him The first four highlights below were classic Zion thunder dunks, but the fifth was a ridiculous up-and-under layup that few players his size can pull off.
The man was feeling it. Then he took five shots in the second half. Five! Here's a list of Pelicans players who had the same or more shot attempts than Williamson in the second half: Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, and JJ Redick. Eric Bledsoe, Willy Hernangomez, Lonzo Ball, and Kira Lewis all had four. Ingram doubled up Williamson by himself with 10 field goal attempts over the last two quarters.
For those, like me, who can't do math, that makes five shot attempts for Williamson and 27 shot attempts for all non-Williamson players. He can't and won't take every shot even when he's on fire, but that percentage of shots taken needs to be heavily skewed in his direction if he doesn't miss a field goal in 10 attempts from the floor in the first half.
New Orleans is still figuring it all out on both ends of the floor and adjusting to new coach Stan Van Gundy's schemes. But superstars precede all rules and directives in the NBA. If Zion is cooking, you get him the ball. It's that simple. Van Gundy can't let Ingram shoot 4-of-10 at the sacrifice of touches for his other star forward. Let Zion cook!