Zion Williamson had a career-high 43 points in the New Orleans Pelicans’ win over the Minnesota Timberwolves in his first game back after an illness.
He carried the Pelicans on a night they needed him to, as the Pels were trailing for most of the game, including down the stretch, when Zion took over and made clutch shot after clutch shot.
Zion is now averaging 25.8 points, seven rebounds and 4.7 assists on the season, but has been even better while Brandon Ingram has been out with a sprained toe.
He’s upped his scoring to 27.5 points in that time, while grabbing 7.5 rebounds and notching 5.3 assists as the team’s primary playmaker.
Zion Williamson has been a star from the second he stepped into the league, but last night we watched him become a superstar, and there will be no looking back.
New Orleans Pelicans: Zion Williamson is the team leader
The Pelicans have used their depth to not only stay alive but thrive during Ingram’s absence. Various players have stepped up, but it has really been Zion who has carried them.
The biggest difference between what we are seeing now and what we’ve seen in the past is that Zion is not just putting up empty stats on a bad team. The Pelicans are currently tied for first in the Western Conference, so Zion is doing this in high-pressure games that matter.
He’s taken a more vocal leadership role, is demanding the ball with the game on the line, and has improved his defense. He hit a huge 3-point shot (his only one of the game) last night when the Pelicans desperately needed a bucket, bringing them within two points with just over two minutes left in the game.
But most of his damage was done in the restricted area, as Zion kept going at the Timberwolves, who had no answer for him even though they have two of the best shot blockers in the NBA. Not only did Zion have his way on the inside, but he shot 19 free throws, which kept the T’Wolves front court in foul trouble all night, with Gobert eventually fouling out.
Zion scored 14 straight points in the 4th quarter, including a clutch go-ahead free throw. He got a crucial steal late to give the Pelicans the lead. This is what superstars do, as he took over the game and wouldn’t allow his team to lose.
Zion is now tied for 5th in the NBA in clutch points per game, and is shooting 56 percent in those situations. He has taken over as the leader of the New Orleans Pelicans with Brandon Ingram out and is playing with more confidence than he ever has.
This won’t be Zion’s last 40+ point game this season, as the superstar switch has been flipped.