Zion Williamson went off for a game-high 38 points and dismantled the Mavericks in the Pelicans’ win Saturday night, which prompted Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle to compare the 20-year-old to a Hall of Famer.
“He’s an unusual force and obviously a great player,” Carlisle told reporters after the Mavericks’ 112-103 loss. “We’ll have to figure something a little better out next time, but he’s doing this to everybody. We did have some very good possessions guarding him, but he was a beast.
“It presents huge challenges for the defense and for officials. He is just creating collisions out there. This is a Shaquille O’Neal-type force of nature with a point guard skill set.”
The 2019 first-overall pick has been on a tear the last two games. After posting a career-high 39 points in Friday night’s loss to the Nuggets, Williamson led the Pelicans again with 38 Saturday on 13-for-20 shooting. He also added six assists and five rebounds.
But it’s been the quality of his offensive surges, not just the quantity. Williamson scored or assisted on the Pelicans’ final 14 points in the final 2:47 of Saturday’s win. His teammates are now starting to see him develop into someone who can put games away in the final minutes in just his second NBA season.
“The ability to go in there and know the angles of the basket and know the angles of everything around the rim, it’s really beautiful,” Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram said of Williamson. “To be as efficient as he is and go to the rim and sometimes get fouled and play through it, it’s beautiful to see.”
Carlisle added that defending Williamson has become “a real challenge,” especially after Williamson was able to get to the free-throw line quite frequently. He registered season-highs with 12 free throws made on 18 attempts.
“You’ve got to have a lot of courage to stand in there and get run over by that guy, because he’s coming at you fast,” Carlisle said. “He’s coming at you, like, it’s not just an Amtrak. It’s an Acela. It’s the fast one that doesn’t stop. It doesn’t stop in Westport or wherever. It just goes — phew! — straight to New York City. It’s something else.”