Zion’s passing and other takeaways from Pelicans win over Spurs

New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson (1) Credit: Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports
New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson (1) Credit: Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports /

Zion Williamson did not a have a great night shooting for the New Orleans Pelicans, but he did other things to make up for it in their win over the San Antonio Spurs.

New Orleans got out to a hot start behind Trey Murphy III, who got the start with Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum still sitting with minor injuries.

It wasn’t the prettiest win, as the Pels turned it over 21 times and played sloppily against the Spurs, who have a rebuilding roster full of rookies. But they made up for it with accurate 3-point shooting and defense, as they held San Antonio to just 97 points and shot 38 percent as a team from long range.

New Orleans had nine steals with Herb Jones and Jose Alvarado nabbing three apiece.

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There were some interesting developments in game three of the preseason, including an emerging two-man game between Zion Williamson and Trey Murphy III.

New Orleans Pelicans vs. San Antonio Spurs: Zion Williamson’s passing

Zion went just 3-of-7 in an uncharacteristically quiet night for him scoring, as he only had eight points in 24 minutes with two free throw attempts.

But he grabbed nine rebounds (all defensive), which is a great sign, as he is a guy who can grab a rebound and start his own fast break. Zion has looked a little more active on the defensive end and grabbing defensive rebounds is the final step of closing out a possession.

He also had a good night passing the ball, with five assists (though he did turn it over four times), finding open teammates out of double teams and starting a couple of fast breaks with outlet passes off rebounds.

Zion is going to get a ton of attention when he has the ball in his hands, so he has to continue to trust his teammates and pass out of double teams as he did against the Spurs. If he starts adding five assists and nine rebounds a night to his normally prolific scoring, Williamson is going to be in the MVP discussion and the Pels are going to have a well-balanced attack.

Trey Murphy III is going to thrive with Zion Williamson

Trey Murphy III got the start against the Spurs and came out firing, scoring 13 points in the first quarter.

He finished with 27 points overall, nailing 7-of-10 from 3-point range and adding eight rebounds and three assists.

TMIII and Zion aren’t going to start together much but we got a glimpse of their fit when Murphy III comes off the bench. Zion drew a double team early in the first quarter and kicking it back out to Murphy III, who drained the wide-open three.

A few minutes later Zion again drew a double and TMIII made a nice back cut to the rim with Zion hitting him for the dunk.

This is going to be a theme this season, as Murphy III may be the first guy off the bench and is going to be the beneficiary of all of the attention Williamson attracts. It’s clear Murphy III is going to have a drastically increased role in year two, and that he’s going to feed off Williamson when the two of them are in the game together.

Willy Hernangomez continues to step up

After an MVP run in EuroBasket this summer, Willy Hernangomez has just kept rolling. The hallmark of his career with the Pelicans (aside from being a great teammate) is that he has always been ready to step up when his number is called.

Jaxson Hayes suffered an elbow injury against the Pistons, so Willy Hernangomez was the first big man off the bench, adding 11 points and 11 rebounds in just 13 minutes.

Hernangomez is symbolic of the Pels’ culture and depth, as he is a solid player who may not even play on some nights, but is still a big part of the team and ready to contribute when called upon.

It’s all been good for the New Orleans Pelicans so far, with two more preseason games before the start of the regular season.

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