Zion Williamson says playoff loss to Suns played part in late dunk

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NEW ORLEANS – Pelicans forward Zion Williamson took two dribbles to the rim and made a 360 windmill dunk to end Friday night’s game against the Phoenix Suns in style.

Some Suns players objected to Williamson’s slam, which happened with 1.9 seconds left to send the Pelicans up by double digits. As the clock ticked out in New Orleans’ 128-117 win, tempers flared as both benches took to the field.

Pelicans guard Jose Alvarado, Suns guard Cameron Payne and Chris Paul and coaching staff from both teams met near center court before security helped separate both teams.

“The game was pretty much over and they just kept playing,” said Payne. “I felt like there was just no sportsmanship and we don’t really like that. We’re doing the right thing. I felt like they should have done the right thing and they didn’t. We didn’t take it well and we don’t like didn’t like to lose either. The game was over, no shot clock. They can hold the ball.”

Pelicans guard CJ McCollum, when asked about Payne’s postgame comments, gave a simple answer.

“They have to get back on the defensive if they don’t want us to dunk the ball,” McCollum said. “Get back on the defensive.”

Replays of the final seconds of the game showed Pelicans coach Willie Green stepping between Alvarado and Paul after the clock expired. When Green intervened, players and coaches from both teams joined in, though only words were exchanged.

When asked about the cleanup afterwards, both Alvarado and Paul attempted to downplay the event.

“I can’t really remember what happened,” Alvarado said. “I’m just glad we won.”

Paul said, “It’s excitement at the end of the game. It happens all the time and it is what it is. Nobody fights. Nobody does nothing.”

Alvarado and Paul got to know each other well during the playoffs last season as the Suns ousted the Pelicans in six games. Georgia Tech’s undrafted player Alvarado loved going after a seasoned NBA veteran like Paul. In the deciding Game 6, Paul elbowed Alvarado in the face on his way to goal, breaking off Alvarado’s tooth. Alvarado also received a kick to the groin from Paul in Game 5 of that series.

Paul apparently wasn’t in the mood to talk about Alvarado after Friday’s game, and Alvarado didn’t want to mention Paul by name. Alvarado was originally listed as doubtful for the game due to a rib contusion. But it wasn’t enough to keep him off the floor Friday night.

“I wasn’t sitting out, 100 percent,” Alvarado said. “Not to care about anyone else, but if that person plays, I play.”

Williamson was unavailable for the playoff meeting with Phoenix due to a broken foot that wiped out his entire year. He said the elimination by the Suns played a part in why he went to that last dunk.

“That was a little bit out of character,” Williamson said. “But you have to understand, I mean you can understand or not. Last year they sent my teammates home.

“I missed everything last year. I got a little carried away. I’ll admit that. But you know, I was in that locker room when my brothers were down because the Suns sent us home last year. That’s a tough moment to be a part of it. So at that point I got carried away. I admit it. … If they did the same, I wouldn’t have a problem with it.”

There won’t be much going on between the teams either. The Pelicans, winners of six in a row, will again receive the Suns, losers of three in a row, on Sunday afternoon.

While it was the Pelicans and Sun’s second meeting of the season, it was the first for Williamson, who missed the first game on October 28 with lower back/right hip pain.

Pelicans forward Larry Nance Jr. said he did not believe Williamson’s dunk itself was the cause of the benches deflating and that it was more the emotions of the game.

“I think it was just one of those things. You have a lot of high-level athletes there and a lot of testosterone and guys who are big and strong,” Nance said. “I’m glad it got divorced before something stupid happened.”

Williamson finished with a season-high 35 points, seven rebounds and four assists for the Pelicans, who improved to 17–8, tying for the best record in franchise history by 25 games (2002–03 and 2003–04). It also gave the Pelicans a game-leading record in the Western Conference over Memphis and ahead of Phoenix by 1.5.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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