Zion Williamson Drops 25 as Pelicans' Playoff Hopes Fade with Loss to Spurs

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistAugust 9, 2020

New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson, center, with help from teammate Derrick Favors (22) takes a shot as he gets past San Antonio Spurs center Jakob Poeltl, left, during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Aug. 9, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)
Ashley Landis/Associated Press

The San Antonio Spurs secured a much-needed victory over the New Orleans Pelicans as they look to qualify for the 2020 NBA playoffs.

The Spurs earned a 122-113 win Sunday in Kissimmee, Florida.

The result could have significant ramifications for the Pelicans. Should the Portland Trail Blazers defeat the Philadelphia 76ers, New Orleans would be eliminated from postseason contention.

The Pelicans were down as many as 13 points in the fourth quarter before trimming the deficit to three points with 3:01 to play. The Spurs went on an 8-0 run to jump ahead 113-102 with 43.1 seconds on the clock, effectively icing the result.

           

Notable Stats

Brandon Ingram, SF, Pelicans: 6-14 FG, 17 points, six rebounds, five assists, one steal

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Zion Williamson, SF, Pelicans: 10-20 FG, 25 points, seven rebounds, one assist

JJ Redick, SG, Pelicans: 10-16 FG, 31 points, five rebounds, three assists, one steal

DeMar DeRozan, SF, Spurs: 10-16 FG, 27 points, four rebounds, two assists, one steal

Dejounte Murray, PG, Spurs: 5-14 FG, 18 points, five rebounds, two assists, two steals, one block

Rudy Gay, SF, Spurs: 5-11 FG, 19 points, five rebounds, three assists, three steals, one block

             

Gay, DeRozan Power Spurs Offense

Rudy Gay was big off the bench for the Spurs, doing a little bit of everything in addition to his 19 points. He knocked down a pair of three-pointers and attacked his defender off the dribble when he found a mismatch.

Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich rolled with DeMar DeRozan at the 4 to open the game. DeRozan's scoring output speaks to how successful the gambit was, and the Pelicans were unable to use their frontcourt size to their benefit on the other end.

DeRozan's 15 points in the fourth quarter were pivotal in keeping the Pelicans at bay.

Derrick White left the game in the third quarter, with the Spurs announcing he suffered a left knee contusion. White had 16 points prior to exiting, continuing his strong performance since the NBA restart. He had averaged 21.8 points, 5.2 assists and 5.0 rebounds in San Antonio's first five contests entering Sunday.

Given the fact that the Spurs still have some work to do, White's absence could be a big problem for them if his knee injury limits his availability over the team's final two games.

             

Pelicans' 2nd-Half Surge Falls Short

New Orleans outscored San Antonio 32-19 in the third quarter to turn what was shaping up to be a blowout into a tight game. Zion Williamson missed the final 7:12 of the quarter, so the Pelicans had the chance to really turn the tide in the fourth quarter.

Gay quickly connected on a three-pointer while getting fouled by Jaxson Hayes. That made it an eight-point game, and New Orleans couldn't string together enough defensive possessions to erase San Antonio's lead.

The Pelicans' time in the bubble isn't over, but their last two outings will feel somewhat anticlimactic with the postseason all but out the window. That, in turn, could alter how much head coach Alvin Gentry leans on Williamson.

The No. 1 overall draft pick made a positive impact in his 27 minutes on the floor, crashing the offensive glass and using his strength to muscle inside against the Spurs defense.

The backcourt combo of Lonzo Ball and Jrue Holiday struggled mightily, though, to offset Williamson's contributions. Ball and Holiday combined for 12 points on 4-of-22 shooting.

Missing the playoffs is a disappointing outcome since the offseason additions of JJ Redick and Derrick Favors spoke to the front office's ambitions. The franchise has a bright future ahead nonetheless while building around the foundation of Williamson and Brandon Ingram.

              

What's Next?

The Spurs and Pelicans are both back on the court Tuesday after a day off. San Antonio plays the Houston Rockets at 2 p.m. ET, while New Orleans tips off against the Sacramento Kings at 9 p.m. ET.