Pelicans grizzlies with rare duel between Williamson and Morant

Zion Williamson and Ja Morant were the first two players selected in the 2019 NBA Draft. The New Orleans Pelicans selected Williamson from Duke, then the Memphis Grizzlies selected Morant from Murray State.

The dynamic young stars have only played four times in the same NBA game due to injuries, but both are expected to play when the rising Pelicans visit the collapsing Grizzlies on Friday night.

Williamson, who missed a 113-102 home win over the Grizzlies on Nov. 15, returned from a sore foot to play in the last two games. He had a season-high 32 points ahead and 11 rebounds in a 129-110 win in San Antonio on Wednesday.

“Zion was a monster from start to finish,” said New Orleans coach Willie Green. “Driving the ball, kicking it to his teammates, exploiting mismatches.”

The win, the Pelicans’ fifth in six games, came two nights after a 45-point win over the undermanned Golden State Warriors.

“It’s hard to win in the NBA, especially when you get into this building,” Green said in San Antonio. “We must continue to set the standard for who we want to be and what we want to achieve.”

New Orleans played San Antonio without starting supervisor CJ McCollum (no COVID illness), but Devonte’ Graham came off the bench and scored 21 points, meaning six 3-pointers, and center Jonas Valanciunas added 22 points and 10 rebounds .

“Our defense really clicked,” Williamson said.

Morant, who had 36 points but only 20 after the first quarter in the New Orleans loss, was returning from a sprained ankle as the Grizzlies lost to Sacramento 113-109 Tuesday night.

Morant had 20 points in the fourth quarter, including a three-point play that drew Memphis to a point with 5.3 seconds left.

After two Kings free throws, Morant had a chance to level the score when he was fouled while shooting a 3-pointer with 1.7 seconds left. But he missed two of the three free throws, and the Grizzlies lost for the fourth time in five games.

“I missed it. It’s game over,” Morant said. “It builds character. I had been there before.

“We got some open looks and missed and they turned them into points. They turned our turnovers into points. That created a hole and we had to fight back late in the game,” he added.

Desmond Bane remains sidelined with a big toe sprain, but Jaren Jackson Jr. made his season debut in the first game against the Pelicans after undergoing offseason foot surgery.

The Pelicans have won all four games that Williamson and Morant have played in, the most recent being a 144-113 win by New Orleans at Memphis on February 16, 2021.

In the games both have played in, Williamson has averaged 26.8 points and six rebounds, and Morant has averaged 17.8 points and 7.0 assists.

In Williamson’s absence at the last meeting, McCollum scored 30 points to lead six Pelicans by double digits and New Orleans made 18 3-pointers on 38 tries.

– Field level media

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