After dropping a career-high 39 points in Friday’s loss to the Nuggets, Zion Williamson followed it up with a 38-point performance in a 112-103 win over the Dallas Mavericks, leaving Rick Carlisle, the Mavs head coach, in awe.
He’s an unusual force and obviously a great player. We’ll have to figure something a little better out next time, but he’s doing this to everybody. We did have some very good possessions guarding him, but he was a beast.Rick Carlisle, ESPN
Zion shot 13-for-20 from the floor and 12-for-18 from the free-throw line to go along with 5 rebounds and 6 assists. With Lonzo Ball out, Stan Van Gundy put the ball in Williamson’s hands even more, and it paid dividends, especially down the stretch. The 20-year-old forward scored or assisted on the team’s final 14 points and helped the Pelicans put the game away for their 20th win of the season.
With his fourth straight game of scoring 25 points or more on 65% shooting or better, Zion became the first player with such stretch of games since Shaquille O’Neal during the 95-96 NBA season. He also tied LeBron James‘ record of 11 games with at least 30 points on at least 60% shooting from the floor prior to a player’s 21st birthday.
Sixty-seven games into his NBA career, it’s safe to say Zion is the NBA’s next force to be reckoned with, just like LeBron and Shaq were. The Mavs head coach even drew a parallel between Williamson and one of them, with one key distinction — Zion’s playmaking ability.
It presents huge challenges for the defense and for officials. He is just creating collisions out there. This is a Shaquille O’Neal-type force of nature with a point guard skill set.Rick Carlisle, ESPN
Zion is taking 74.5% of his shots at the basket, and so far, no one has been able to stop it. The Mavericks couldn’t, the Nuggets couldn’t, even Rudy Gobert, 2x Defensive Player of the Year, couldn’t when the Pelicans faced the Jazz a couple of weeks ago.
Williamson is showing no hesitation driving the ball, displaying incredible body control and the ability to finish through contact. The “cure” teams used for Shaq won’t work on Zion – he’s shooting 70.9% on 8.5 free throw attempts per game.
But physicality-wise, Zion really is a modern-day O’Neal. Much better as a shooter and more gifted as a playmaker, but with equally unmatched power. And he’s only 20 years old.
Good luck coach Carlisle. Good luck the rest of the NBA.