Zion Williamson says playoff loss to Suns was involved in late dunk

Zion Williamson says playoff loss to Suns was involved in late dunk

  • Sports
  • December 10, 2022
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1:49 p.m. ETlopez andrew News For Everyone Zoohouse News

Andrew Lopez ESPN

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

Some Suns players took offense at Williamson’s slam, which came with 1.9 seconds to go to propel the Pelicans up into double digits. When the clock ran out in New Orleans’ 128-117 win, tempers ran high as both benches were cleared onto the pitch.

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

“The game was pretty much over and they just kept playing,” Payne said. “I felt like there was just no sportsmanship and we don’t really like that. We do 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 to lose either. Game over, no shot clock. You can hold the ball.”

When asked about Payne’s post-game remarks, Pelicans guard CJ McCollum gave a simple answer.

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

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

Asked about the riot afterwards, both Alvarado and Paul tried 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 very well during last season’s playoffs, when the Suns ousted the Pelicans in six games. Alvarado, who was a Georgia Tech undrafted rookie, enjoyed chasing after a seasoned NBA veteran like Paul. In the deciding Game 6, Paul elbowed Alvarado in the face on the way to the hoop, snapping Alvarado’s tooth. Alvarado also suffered a kick in the groin from Paul in Game 5.

Paul apparently wasn’t in the mood to talk about Alvarado after Friday’s game, and Alvarado didn’t address Paul by name. Alvarado had been ruled questionable for the game because of a bruised rib, but that wasn’t enough to keep him off the ground on Friday night.

“I wasn’t sitting outside 100 percent,” Alvarado said. “I don’t want to take care of anyone else, but if that person plays, I play.”

Williamson was unavailable for the playoff meeting with Phoenix because of a broken foot that wiped out his entire year. He said the Suns’ elimination played a role in why he moved up for that final dunk.

“It was a bit out of character for me,” Williamson said. “But you have to understand, I mean you can understand it or not. They sent my teammates home last year.

“I missed everything last year. I got a little carried away. I admit that. But you know, I was in that locker room when my brothers were downstairs because the Suns sent us home last year. This is a difficult moment to be a part of. So I got carried away in that moment. I admit that. … If they did the same, I wouldn’t have a problem with that.

There won’t be a big break between teams. The Pelicans, winners of six straight games, again host the Suns, losers of three straight games, on Sunday afternoon.

While it was the second meeting between the Pelicans and the Suns this season, it was the first for Williamson, who missed the first game on Oct. 28 with lower back/right hip pain.

Pelicans forward Larry Nance Jr. said he didn’t believe Williamson’s dunk itself caused the benches to clear and that it was more the emotion of the game.

“I think it was just one of those things. There’s a lot of high-profile, high-testosterone athletes out there and guys who are big and strong,” Nance said. “I’m glad it was broken up before something stupid happened.”

Williamson finished the season with a season-high 35 points, seven rebounds and four assists for the Pelicans, who improved to 17-8 and for the best 25-game record in franchise history (2002-03, ’03-04) worried. The Pelicans have a half-game best record in the Western Conference over Memphis and 1.5 over Phoenix.

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