Zion Williamson unlocks new skill and 3 more standouts from Pelicans win

Houston Rockets v New Orleans Pelicans
Houston Rockets v New Orleans Pelicans / Jonathan Bachman/GettyImages

Welcome to the Four Point Play! Pelican Debrief's new way to recap last night's action. The hope here is that in a quick read, you'll learn everything you need to know about last night's game through stats, highlights, opinions, and ideally a couple of laughs (laughs not promised). Let's get it started.

One Play of the night

The Pelicans turned the Smoothie King Center into a highlight factory last night. During an 8-0 Pelicans run in the second quarter, Herb Jones posterized a Rocket, Jonas Valanciunas posterized a Rocket, and Zion Williamson threw down an alley-opp that popped the top off "The Blender" (which is what Pelicans fans call their arena, my new favorite Pelicans fact). The best of the bunch was Herb Jones flushing it in Jabari Smith's face. See below.

Two Stats to know

New Orleans +22 points in the paint
New Orleans +10 in turnovers

These two stats define the domination that was on hand last night. For the first three quarters, the Pelicans got everything they wanted in the painted area. Point Zion and Freight Train Zion were on full display on the offensive end. Over and over again he bullied smaller defenders (usually Dillon Brooks) and finished around the rim. When Houston had enough of that and sent help, Williamson dropped dimes to cutters and finished the game with 10 assists. Paint points were easy to come by against Houston and they were the lifeblood of the Pelicans offense.

Related to their paint dominance was their ball security and swarming defense. The Pelicans (Herb Jones specifically) were disruptive all night. They forced 24 turnovers and scored 29 points in transition. The forced turnovers led to runouts and highlight plays that juiced up an already playoff-like atmosphere in NOLA.

Three Stars of the game

⭐️ CJ McCollum - 28 points, six rebounds, six assists, 4/10 from three
⭐️⭐️ Herb Jones - 17 points, five rebounds, four assists, seven steals
⭐️⭐️⭐️ Zion Williamson - 27 points, nine assists, three rebounds

Without Brandon Ingram in the lineup, the active Pelicans big three showed up. Each of the three players executed their roles to perfection.

McCollum operated as the lead ball-handler and led the team in scoring and three-pointers made in an efficient outing.

Jones was everywhere on both ends disrupting the Rockets' offense and knocking down timely jumpers.

Zion was the mega-star the Pelicans needed him to be. His brute force scoring married his soft passing touch to finish the evening just short of a points and assists double-double.

Four Takeaways

1. The version of Zion we saw last night can lead the Pelicans out of the first round. Zion's perimeter offense is limited due to his lack of shooting, but his playmaking skills are severely underrated. If Point Zion shows up in a playoff series, he has supernova potential that will present a matchup nightmare to every team in the West.

2. The offense showed real versatility. Down Brandon Ingram, the second leading scorer, the team needed to find offense somewhere. Turns out they found it everywhere. 16 threes, 29 transition points, 62 points in the paint, 18 free throws. New Orleans scored in a myriad of ways and when the playoffs come and buckets are hard to come by, it's encouraging to see the Pelicans' score all over the court.

3. Escaping the All Star break hangover. Last night was an economical, fairly easy win that didn't have to be that way. Missing Brandon Ingram and returning after a week off could have led to a sleepy perfomance from the Pels. Far from it. The Smoothie King Center was jumping from the tip and the team gave the hometown crowd a show. In a long, 82 game season, nights like these are easy to take off. New Orleans didn't, and that matters.

4. The hometown announcing crew said it over and over, but that was a playoff-like atmosphere in the Big Easy. The Pelicans fans are desperate for a winner, and the team's recent performances are turning the fans dreams into reality.