On Wednesday night, Zion Williamson was unstoppable. As a result, the New Orleans Pelicans escaped with a 119-118 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves which left D’Angelo Russell nonplussed by the physical play style of Williamson.
The Pelicans star dropped a career-high 43 points while shooting 66.7% on 21 field goal attempts. In the fourth quarter alone, Williamson scored 14 points. Yet the 6-foot-6, 284-pound forward became the target of Russell’s displeasure after the loss.
“He just ran through my guy, took the ball,” Russell said, per Bleacher Report video. “He’s playing football, we’re playing basketball. We can’t touch him or guard him. So, good for him.”
One of the plays Russell likely referred to came in the fourth quarter. Williamson, off a pick from Jonas Valančiūnas, drove with Rudy Gobert defending and scored a game-tying layup with 50.8 seconds remaining. Williamson, a known aggressive inside presence, knocked Gobert down to the ground for a few seconds before the Timberwolves regathered to inbound the ball.
While Russell, who scored 27 points, is understandably frustrated, last night proved nothing new. Williamson plays “football” because he’s physically and athletically gifted to a greater degree than most of those tasked with defending him. He’s fully aware of his physical advantage and utilizes it. His playground bully ball style along with his explosive athleticism — which he displayed at Duke — is exactly why the Pelicans took him No. 1 in the 2019 NBA Draft.
Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch gave Williamson props for an “outstanding” night.
“He’s a great player,” Finch said, per team-provided video. “He was their entire effort tonight. He was outstanding. … I thought our first half defense on him was outstanding. Our second half was way too soft. We let him come running at us and he was able to get a head of steam. And when he does that it’s tough.”