Duke basketball: Pelicans lose as Zion Williamson sits in crunch time

Former Duke basketball star Zion Williamson found himself on the bench in crunch time as the New Orleans Pelicans dropped their first game of the NBA’s restarted season.

The NBA has returned, and it was so glorious, with the exception that at the end of a close game Zion Williamson found himself, fully healthy, on the bench of the New Orleans Pelicans.

Williamson had left the bubble for eight days to deal with a family emergency and then had to quarantine for four days upon his return to Orlando and was only able to practice for the last two days before the first game.

Because of this, the Pelicans decided to watch Williamson’s minutes, but head coach Alvin Gentry said that this was not a minutes restriction prior to the game.

Well, this was the clearest and most obvious minutes restriction, as the refusal to play the rookie star cost the Pelicans a victory and possibly a chance at a playoff berth.

Trailing the Memphis Grizzlies by three and a half games entering the contest, the Pelicans held a 16-point lead that they were unable to close and fell, 104-102.

Zion Williamson only played 15 minutes but still scored 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting from the field.

However, former Blue Devils Brandon Ingram and JJ Redick starred for New Orleans as Ingram scored a team-high 23 points while Redick was right behind him with 21 points.

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Ingram’s final shot, which would have given the Pelicans a game-winning buzzer-beater, rimmed out as time expired.

Frank Jackson did not score in four minutes played while former National Champion Jahlil Okafor did not see any action for the Pelicans in the loss.

In what a New Orleans fan could consider a ‘must-win game’, things do not get any easier for the Pelicans as they will face the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday, August 1 at 6:00pm EST, and the game can be seen on ESPN.

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Hopefully, Gentry will fully utilize Zion Williamson as the team continues to hunt for a playoff spot.