Zion Williamson rose to the occasion in his first home game as an NBA player, scoring a game-high 26 points in the New Orleans Pelicans’ preseason win over the Utah Jazz.
The Pelicans triumphed 128-127, with Williamson’s impressive points tally coming in only 23 minutes on the court.
Drafted number one overall ahead of the 2019-20 season, the 19-year-old also had five rebounds and a plus-minus of +13, the best recorded by a player on either team.
Williamson shot 9-of-12 from the field, draining his only three-point attempt from 25 feet of the match to score his first in the professional ranks.
He battled with the Jazz’s defensive star Rudy Gobert, delighting the sold-out crowd at the Smoothie King Center by making two layups against the Frenchman, collecting two fouls and following up his one miss in their enthralling head-to-head with a two-handed slam.
“You gotta give him respect, two-time Defensive Player of the Year,” Williamson said of Gobert after the game.
“I just went in there strong and tried to finish.”
— NBA (@NBA) 12 October 2019
Of his first career three, Williamson added: “It was great, my first instinct was how to get back on defense as coach gets upset about that.
“Hopefully I get a lot more of them throughout the year.
“It was great to finally get out here and see the support we have here in New Orleans. I’m glad they came out, hopefully we’ll see them all season. I hope I can continue to play the way I am.”
Prior to facing the Jazz, he had 29 points in 27 minutes against the Chicago Bulls after a 16-point debut against the Atlanta Hawks.
Gobert took solace in not being dunked on by Williamson but said: “He has a great future ahead of him.
“He’s kind of surprisingly agile and I think he catches a lot of people off guard because of that. He can change direction pretty quick.”
Zion over the last 2 games (50 minutes played)
— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) 12 October 2019