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Zion Williamson’s MSG moment was a bit anti-climactic

Zion Williamson has been in the NBA since 2019, but he had never played in front of a sold-out crowd at Madison Square Garden.

“This was the first time we played at Madison Square Garden without COVID-19 restrictions,” Williamson said after the Pelicans’ 115-92 victory over an undermanned Knicks team. “New York is the mecca of basketball. It was my first time playing like that here. I fouled out, but unfortunately it was the worst. The fans really root for the Knicks. But for me, NOLA I’m good at that. I’m glad I won.”

The Knicks, without Jalen Brunson, Julius Randle, OG Anunoby, Isaiah Hartenstein and Mitchell Robinson, suffered a blowout loss and everything seemed a little anti-climactic.


Zion Williamson, who scored 21 points in the Knicks’ 115-92 loss to the Pelicans, is targeting Alec Burks. USA TODAY Sports (via Reuters Con)

There was a time, when the Knicks were tied for the best odds to land the top pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, that it looked like Williamson could do it every night.

However, the Pelicans acquired the pick and selected Williamson, and the Knicks took RJ Barrett at No. 3.

So when Williamson, who had 21 points and five rebounds in the Pelicans’ win, was listed as questionable with a left foot contusion before Tuesday’s game, there was little question he would play.

The only game played at New Orleans at the Garden in April 2021 had attendance limited due to coronavirus regulations.

Still, after that experience, Williamson also called New York “the mecca of basketball.”


Zion Williamson blocked Josh Hart's shot during the Knicks' loss to the Pelicans.
Zion Williamson blocked Josh Hart’s shot during the Knicks’ loss to the Pelicans. Robert Sabo

And he praised the garden at that time as follows: I played here in college, but this is my first time playing here professionally. The atmosphere is great, whether you’re cheering or booing. ”

Then he frowned and added: I can’t even lie to you, I can’t even lie to you. ”

But that was before he signed a five-year, up to $197.2 million contract to remain with New Orleans in July 2022. He’s clearly learned his lesson since then.

On the court, Williamson played more of a point forward role and played solid, but not spectacular.

He picked up his third foul with 1:07 left in the first half. He hit Josh Hart with a forearm early in the game, giving him a nosebleed, but there was no foul, so he should have been called for one more. Then, late in the third quarter, he fiercely blocked a shot from Hart.

Williamson had 21 points, five rebounds, four assists, and six turnovers in 29 minutes, but fouled out with 3:35 remaining.

Despite his star power, the 23-year-old didn’t provoke much of a reaction from the Garden crowd. But the Pelicans continue to play well, and Williamson said that remains his focus.

“I’ve been saying it for years and I think we’ve really said it this year, we want to win,” Williamson said. “At the end of the day, people remember winners. We want to be winners.”

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