Zion Williamson, a key player for the New Orleans Pelicans, has not forgotten their most humbling defeat of the season—a staggering 133-89 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in the In-Season Tournament semifinal. Reflecting on that painful experience, Williamson sees it as a potential “blessing in disguise”.
Since that game in Las Vegas on December 7, the Pelicans, with Williamson and Brandon Ingram each scoring 26 points, have shown remarkable improvement, beating the Lakers 129-109 on Sunday night to mark a 7-3 record post-Las Vegas.
Williamson shared, “It definitely brought us together more as a team. I feel like we’ve been playing great since then. We’ve still got some things to figure out, but so does every other team”. This sentiment captures the team's collective growth following their setback.
Rejuvenated Team Effort in Recent Victory
The Lakers, on the other hand, entered the game after a 108-106 loss at Minnesota, with LeBron James playing through flu-like symptoms and acknowledging the challenges faced by the team.
“We have to figure it out and get better, for sure,” James said, highlighting the team's struggle to maintain consistency. In contrast, the Pelicans displayed a fierce determination to redeem themselves. They played with renewed vigor and strategic brilliance in front of an enthusiastic New Year’s Eve crowd.
Pelicans coach Willie Green highlighted the team’s focus on redemption, saying, “The way we lost the game, you want to redeem yourself”.Key contributions came from CJ McCollum with 22 points and Jose “Grand Theft” Alvarado, who significantly impacted the game with his energy and defensive skills.
Green praised Alvarado, saying, “It’s a blessing to have a guy like that on your team who can really ignite the whole building”.Injuries played a role in the game dynamics, with the Lakers missing key players and Rui Hachimura leaving the game with a calf strain.
Despite the absence of Trey Murphy III, the Pelicans excelled in 3-point shooting, with McCollum leading the way.
Alvarado's steals from James and Davis were particularly notable, adding an exciting element to the game. “LeBron, that’s one of the greatest players to ever play this game and for me to be on the court, for me to get steals, for me to do anything, that’s pretty amazing," Alvarado expressed, capturing the spirit of the Pelicans' impressive performance.