The New Orleans Pelicans faced a harsh defeat against the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA's in-season tournament semifinals, with star player Zion Williamson taking personal responsibility for the team's lackluster performance.
Lackluster Performance by Pelicans
In what was deemed the most critical game of Williamson's career thus far, the Pelicans suffered a significant 133-89 loss to the Lakers at T-Mobile Arena on Thursday. This defeat ranks as the third-most lopsided regular-season loss in the franchise's history, marking a notable low point for the team.
Williamson echoed coach Willie Green's sentiments about the team's lack of competitive spirit and attributed the disappointing outcome partly to his own performance. Finishing the game with 13 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 turnovers in 26 minutes, Williamson acknowledged the need for improvement.
"I got to be better," he said. "I got to be more aggressive, finding my shot. I got to do more things to get my team going. I think I was too laid-back tonight, and I just can't do that. And defensively I got to be better."
The Lakers' Dominance and Williamson's Reflection
The Lakers, led by LeBron James' dominant performance of 30 points, 5 rebounds, and 8 assists in just 23 minutes, were in control throughout the game.
James sat out the entire fourth quarter after the Lakers outscored the Pelicans 43-17 in the third quarter. Pelicans coach Willie Green admitted, "Tonight was a total letdown," and credited the Lakers for their experienced and dominant play.
Green highlighted the Lakers' significant experience, particularly James and Anthony Davis, as a contributing factor to their success. In contrast, Williamson has yet to participate in an NBA postseason game due to injuries, marking a clear disparity in experience.
Green sees this as a learning opportunity, especially for Williamson. "For Z in particular, it's a moment that we can learn from. The level went up tonight, and like I said, we didn't match their intensity." Reflecting on his own role, Williamson acknowledged his tendency to seek the best shot but recognized the need for a more assertive approach.
"I have a problem where I literally just try to hunt the best shot possible every time, but my teammates, they expect more from me," he said. "I expect more from myself. I just got to trust my game."