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CJ McCollum’s 33 lifts Portland to important OT win against Memphis

CJ McCollum's 33 lifts Portland to important OT win against Memphis

Zion Williamson was glued to the bench during crunch time in the Pelicans’ opening night loss, playing only in a short 3-4 minutes burst at the start of each quarter — and he was “pissed” about it.

It’s also not changing in the next game. Or likely the game after that. Maybe even longer.

After the spark of controversy about Zion’s use grew into a full fire on NBA Twitter after Utah beat New Orleans, Pelicans GM David Griffin addressed the media on Friday. From Will Guillory of The Athletic:

The Pelicans take on the Clippers Saturday, then Monday in what is a critical game against Memphis. The schedule softens up considerably after that.

Zion may not be playing more next game, but they have taken him off the injury report (where he was listed for the opener under “re-conditioning”).

After the Pelicans’ loss, there was a lot of frustration. Williamson himself was “pissed” about his minutes’ restriction, Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes said on the Dan Patrick show Friday.

“Of course we wish we could’ve played him down the stretch, but we used the minutes that were given to us, and that’s the way it is,” New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry said after Thursday’s loss. “We weren’t going to stick him back out there. The medical people said we played them in the minutes that were allowed for us to play him, and just move on. I thought he looked good, I thought he had some good moments, and obviously, we’re a much better and different team when he’s out on the floor.”

New Orleans was +13.9 per 100 possessions with Zion on the court in the regular season, but his impact was muted against Utah because he only played 15 minutes (scoring 13 points). For New Orleans this isn’t a playoff race, it is a sprint and they need to outrun a good Trail Blazers team, plus Sacramento and San Antonio (the latter two are shorthanded at the restart).

Ultimately the Pelicans need Zion, but they have been cautious with him and his health going back to Summer League a year ago (where he played one half). That mentality is not changing now.

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