Pelicans fans expressed their anger with the controversial ending to Wednesday night’s game between Denver and New Orleans, but Zion Williamson decided to take the high road.
With less than 10 seconds remaining in regulation and the Nuggets leading the Pelicans by two points, New Orleans forward Brandon Ingram found Williamson at the basket for a dunk attempt. As Williamson elevated toward the rim, Denver center Nikola Jokic reached out for a game-saving block, giving the Nuggets their third straight victory.
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On the initial replay angles, it appeared Jokic swiped the ball away clean.
However, one camera angle along the baseline showed Jokic making clear contact with Williamson’s right arm.
When asked about the play and how he has been officiated early in his NBA career, Williamson told reporters that he simply had to “learn from it and just finish it next time.”
“I’ve got to earn my respect. I’m only in Year 2,” Williamson said. “I’ve got to get a couple more years under my belt, and hopefully things change with that.”
Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy was told by the officiating crew that Jokic got “all ball” on the play. While he didn’t come right out and say a foul should have been called, Van Gundy did voice his frustration with the general lack of consistency in terms of how officiating crews treat Williamson.
“What more does he have to do to get those calls? I don’t know. That’s a great question,” Van Gundy said. “I do think strength gets punished in this league a lot more than quickness. If you’re able to go through contact a little bit, it’s called differently. If you fall down every time you’re hit or you flop, you get calls. That’s just the way it is. It’s not just Zion. That’s just the way it is.”
Williamson is third in the league in free throw attempts per game (8.6) behind only Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (9.9) and Hawks guard Trae Young (8.8). Still, Van Gundy believes that number should be higher.
“[Williamson] doesn’t flop, and he doesn’t yell and scream at the referees,” Van Gundy said. “He gets to the free throw line a lot. I’ve had referees say to me, ‘How many free throws has he shot?’ It’s a stupid question. It doesn’t matter. Call it every single time he gets fouled. That’s all your job is. It’s not a matter of, ‘Well, he shot eight free throws, or he shot 10 free throws.’ There are nights he should shoot 20. So call it. That’s all. Just call it.”