NEW ORLEANS — Pelicans ahead Zion Williamson took two dribbles towards the rim and pulled off a 360 windmill dunk to finish Friday evening’s recreation in opposition to the Phoenix Suns in model.
Some Suns gamers took exception to Williamson’s slam, which occurred with 1.9 seconds left to place the Pelicans up by double-digits. Because the clock expired in New Orleans’ 128-117 win, tempers flared as each benches cleared onto the courtroom.
Pelicans guard Jose Alvarado, Suns guards Cameron Payne and Chris Paul, and training staffs from each groups met close to middle courtroom earlier than safety helped to separate them.
“The game was pretty much over, and they just kept playing,” Payne mentioned. “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’ve done the right thing, and they didn’t. We didn’t take it well, and we don’t like to lose either. The game was over, no shot clock. They can hold the ball.”
Pelicans guard CJ McCollum, when requested about Payne’s postgame remarks, gave a easy reply.
“They got to get back on defense if they don’t want us to dunk the ball,” McCollum mentioned. “Get back on defense.”
Replays of the sport’s closing seconds confirmed Pelicans coach Willie Inexperienced stepping between Alvarado and Paul after the clock expired. When Inexperienced stepped in, gamers and coaches from each groups joined in, although solely phrases have been exchanged.
Requested concerning the dustup afterward, each Alvarado and Paul tried to downplay the occasion.
“I don’t really remember what happened,” Alvarado mentioned. “I’m just glad we got the win.”
Mentioned Paul: “It’s excitement at the end of the game. It happens all the time, and it is what it is. Ain’t nobody fighting. Ain’t nobody doing nothing.”
Alvarado and Paul grew to become very acquainted with one another in the course of the playoffs final season when the Suns ousted the Pelicans in six video games. Alvarado, who was an undrafted rookie from Georgia Tech, relished going after a seasoned NBA veteran like Paul. Within the deciding Recreation 6, Paul elbowed Alvarado within the face on the best way to the ring, chipping Alvarado’s tooth. Alvarado additionally suffered a kick to the groin from Paul in Recreation 5.
Paul was seemingly in no temper to debate Alvarado after Friday’s recreation, and Alvarado would not tackle Paul by identify. Alvarado had been listed as questionable for the sport due to a rib contusion, however it wasn’t sufficient to maintain him off the ground Friday evening.
“I wasn’t sitting out, 100 percent,” Alvarado mentioned. “Not to care about anybody else, but if that person plays, I’m playing.”
Williamson wasn’t obtainable for the playoff assembly with Phoenix due to a damaged foot that worn out his complete 12 months. He mentioned being eradicated by the Suns performed an element in why he went up for that closing dunk.
“That was a little out of character for me,” Williamson mentioned. “But you’ve got to understand, I mean, you can understand it or not. They sent my teammates home last year.
“I missed all final 12 months. I obtained carried away a little bit bit. I admit that. However you already know, I used to be in that locker room when my brothers have been down as a result of the Suns despatched us dwelling final 12 months. That is a tricky second to be part of. So in that second, I obtained carried away. I admit that. … In the event that they have been to do the identical factor, I would not haven’t any drawback with it.”
There won’t be much of a break between the teams. The Pelicans, winners of six straight, host the Suns, losers of three in a row, again on Sunday afternoon.
While it was the second meeting between the Pelicans and Suns this season, it was the first for Williamson, who missed the first game Oct. 28 with lower back/right hip soreness.
Pelicans forward Larry Nance Jr. said he didn’t believe Williamson’s dunk itself was what caused the benches to clear and that it was more the emotions of the game.
“I believe it was simply a type of issues. You bought a whole lot of excessive stage, excessive testosterone athletes on the market and guys which can be large and powerful,” Nance said. “I am glad it obtained separated earlier than something silly occurred.”
Williamson completed with a season-high 35 factors, seven rebounds and 4 assists for the Pelicans, who improved to 17-8, tied for the perfect file in franchise historical past by way of 25 video games (2002-03, ’03-04). The Pelicans are a half-game up for the perfect file within the Western Convention over Memphis and 1.5 up on Phoenix.