SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Zion Williamson has been a dominant force on the court for New Orleans since making his NBA debut a month ago. Against Golden State, the heralded rookie made his biggest impact in the locker room with a halftime speech that provided the Pelicans with the boost they needed.
Williamson had 28 points and seven rebounds, Jrue Holiday scored 11 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter and New Orleans pulled away late to beat the Golden State Warriors 115-101 last Sunday.
In the Pelicans locker room afterward, the topic of conversation centred around Williamson’s halftime pep talk.
“It was one of those things where I just said, ‘Yo, we have to play with more energy. We’re much better than this,’” Williamson said. “When it comes down to it, if I say something then it means I’m into the game and something isn’t right. Obviously we got the win and that’s the most important part.”
Williamson did enough on the court to help New Orleans snap a three-game road losing streak to Golden State.
It’s Williamson’s eighth consecutive game with 20 or more points, the longest stretch by a rookie in the NBA this season. He was 13 of 20 and made his first three-pointer since his NBA debut on January 22.
And in the short time since, he’s already become an important voice on the team.
“He isn’t your typical 19-year-old,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. “He’s a very mature kid, very respectful of his teammates and they are very respectful of him as well. He is all about winning. Just winning.”
Nicolo Melli matched his career high with 20 points and six three-pointers, and Brandon Ingram had 17 points and five assists.
Damion Lee scored 22 points to lead five Golden State players in double figures. Jordan Poole added 19.
The Pelicans won for the fifth time in six games after dominating the final 12 minutes. New Orleans had six threes and two dunks in the fourth quarter while outscoring Golden State 38-24.
Holiday led the late surge and got plenty of help. Melli made three threes and Williamson added a thunderous alley-oop dunk.
Williamson got off to a strong start with a pair of alley-oop dunks and a three-pointer in the first quarter. The number one overall pick scored nine of the Pelicans’ first 13 points and also got a big block from behind on Warriors centre Eric Paschall under the basket.
“He’s explosive, strong and he knows how to play,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr said of Williamson. “He’s a really great, young player without much experience at all. He’s only going to get better.”
Lee was just as strong for Golden State, making seven of his first nine shots to help the Warriors to a 10-point halftime lead.