Zion Williamson was the most highly-anticipated prospect since LeBron James and has played only a handful of games in the NBA, yet is still proving to be very productive even on limited minutes. He got starter minutes in the New Orleans Pelicans home matchup against the visiting Milwaukee Bucks and was met by the number one defense in the league. After a sloppy first half by Milwaukee, the game flipped and the Bucks won handily, 120-108.
Zion is the story around the NBA right now, but it was first time All-Star Brandon Ingram who runs the show in New Orleans. He finished 10-16 on the night with a pair of threes for 28 points to lead his team. The Pelicans held the lead at halftime, 61-58 having outshot the Bucks from deep, 10-4.
Eventually, Milwaukee gets their grip like they’ve done repeatedly the last two seasons and score 42 points in the third quarter for a 15-point lead with 12 minutes to go. What doesn’t happen often is the near absence of bench scoring. The Bucks’ starters had to carry the scoring load to put away New Orleans, who made a run in the final minutes to cut the deficit to seven before a 7-0 run from the Bucks.
Giannis vs. Zion was the talk of social media and Giannis came out on top convincingly. Giannis was the primary defender on Zion for most of the game and in 32 minutes, Williamson shot 5-18 from the field and 0-3 from deep. To his credit, he shot fourteen free throws and hit ten to finish with 20 points. He added four assists and seven rebounds, four of which were offensive off a quick hop.
Giannis played like he knew what the hype around the matchup was as high as we expect. The two met at the rim a pair of times, ending in a Giannis block and a Giannis foul. But the Greek Freak made his way through the Pelicans defense whenever he wanted, shooting 12-17 from the floor, 9-13 from the line, and his only three-point attempt for 34 points along with 14 rebounds and 6 assists.
Milwaukee’s starters scored 99 of the 120 points for the team, with Korver, Connaughton, and DiVincenzo the only bench players to get on the score board.
The starter besides Giannis who deserves the most shine is Wesley Matthews, who had one of his best games of the season by shooting 5-9 from deep for 17 points without turning it over.
Brandon Ingram largely carried New Orleans throughout the game to give his team a chance, but it was too much for one guy. He still put up 32 points on 12-19 but a team 39% from the field takes the performance away.
The Bucks improve to 43-7 on the season and will get ready for a big Thursday night matchup again on TNT with the Philadelphia 76ers, who took care of Milwaukee easily on Christmas Day. This time around, it will be at Fiserv Forum. Tip-off is set for 7:00 p.m. CT.