NEW ORLEANS — Pelicans forward Zion Williamson He took two triples toward the rim and pulled off a 360 aerial dunk to end Friday night’s game against the Phoenix Suns in style.
Some Suns players took exception to Williamson’s slam that put the Pelicans up by double digits with 1.9 seconds left. Tempers erupted as both benches took the court as the clock expired in New Orleans’ 128-117 victory.
“The game was pretty much over and they just kept playing,” Payne said. “I felt there was no athleticism, and we didn’t like it. We were doing the right thing. I felt like they should have done the right thing, and they didn’t. We didn’t take it well. We didn’t want to lose. Game over, no shot clock. They could hold the ball.”
Pelican guard CJ McCollumWhen asked about Payne’s postgame comments, he gave a simple answer.
“They have to get back on defense if we don’t want to dunk the ball,” McCallum said. “Return to security.”
Replays of the final seconds of the game showed Pelicans coach Willie Green stepping between Alvarado and Ball after the clock expired. As Green entered, players and coaches from both teams joined, though only words were exchanged.
When asked later about the dust-up, both Alvarado and Paul tried to downplay the incident.
“I don’t really remember what happened,” Alvarado said. “I’m glad we got the win.”
Paul said: “It’s excitement at the end of the game. It happens all the time and that’s it. Nobody fights. Nobody does anything.”
Alvarado and Ball got to know each other a lot during the playoffs last season, when the Suns eliminated the Pelicans in six games. Alvarado, an undrafted player out of Georgia Tech, would love to pursue a seasoned NBA veteran like Ball. In the deciding Game 6, Paul elbowed Alvarado in the face en route to the goal, chipping Alvarado’s tooth. Alvarado also suffered a kick in the groin from Paul in Game 5 of that series.
Paul was in no mood to discuss Alvarado after Friday’s game, and Alvarado wouldn’t call Paul by name. Alvarado was initially listed as questionable for the game because of a rib contusion. But it wasn’t enough to keep him off the floor Friday night.
“I’m not sitting out, 100 percent,” Alvarado said. “Don’t care about anybody else, but if that person plays, I play.”
Williamson did not participate in the playoff meeting with Phoenix because of a broken leg that had ruined his entire year. He said being kicked out by the Suns played a part in why he went for that final dunk.
“That was a little out of character for me,” Williamson said. “But you have to understand, I mean, whether you can understand it or not. They sent my teammates home last year.
“I missed all of last year. I got carried away a little bit. I’ll admit that. But you know, last year I was in that locker room when my brothers were down because the Suns sent us home. It was a tough moment. A part. So at that point, I Dumped. I agree with that … if they do the same thing, I don’t have a problem with it.”
There will not be much gap between teams. The Pelicans, winners of six in a row, host the Suns on Sunday afternoon.
It was the second meeting between the Pelicans and Suns this season, and it was the first for Williamson, who missed the first game on Oct. 28 with back/right hip soreness.
Pelicans forward Larry Nance Jr. He said he doesn’t believe Williamson’s dunk was the reason the benches cleared and it was the emotions of the game.
“I think it’s one of those things. You’ve got a lot of high-level, high-testosterone athletes and big and strong guys,” Nance said. “I’m glad it broke up before anything stupid happened.”
Williamson finished with 35 points, seven rebounds and four assists for the Pelicans, who improved to 17-8, tying the best record in franchise history through 25 games (2002-03 and 2003-04). That gave the Pelicans the best record in the Western Conference over Memphis and 1.5 over Phoenix.