Zion Williamson Left The Timberwolves Bruised And Salty
10:38 AM EST on December 29, 2022
Basketball is a subtle game. In his postgame presser, C.J. McCollum revealed the covert late-game tactic behind the Pelicans' 119-118 defeat of the Wolves on Wednesday night. "We really had diverse play calling down the stretch," he said. "Get the ball to Z and get the fuck out the way." Sounds good. Nobody's coming up with a more sophisticated game plan than 284 pounds, 45-inch vert. Zion Williamson scored the last 14 points for New Orleans. He finished with a career-high 43 points (on 21 shots!), three rebounds, five assists, a block, and a steal. His NBA tenure is as riddled with injury as it is with delirious highlights, and this fourth-quarter push might be his finest work yet, a proof of concept for Zion as offensive superstar. His scoring looks like no one else's scoring. Whatever else his career holds, Zion already has a singular stylistic fingerprint.
Zion doesn't regularly "blow by" his defender, though he does do that sometimes. Sometimes he simply yeets the defender out of frame with a well-placed shoulder. Sometimes he just sails into a pack of dudes and keeps floating until every contest has returned to earth, and then the ball finds its way over or around or high off the glass. Beleaguered Wolves center Rudy Gobert fouled out trying to find a solution. But there does not exist a reliable solution for strength, plus multidirectional hops, plus body control, plus touch around the rim. Even a generational athlete should only be allowed to pick, like, two of those. It's not fair!
Looking at the steal and dunk that put the game away, our pal David Roth noted, with approval, that it had the energy of a strip-sack more than a basketball play. After the game, Wolves guard D'Angelo Russell aired a similar sentiment, but with a much saltier agenda. "He just ran through my guy, took the ball. He's playing football, we're playing basketball. We can't touch him or guard him. Good for him," Russell said. I'm enjoying that idea that someone looked at Zion Williamson, a cube-shaped folk hero, and thought, If only I could get more physical with that guy, we'd actually win.