NEW ORLEANS – Zion Williamson surprised himself when he jumped up with his left hand, pushed the ball into his right hand and put it in before falling over the baseline.
"It was one of those things I was just trying to make something of. I hope someone gets the rebound," Williamson began before turning his answer at teammate E’Twaun Moore's joke into a joke. "I was shocked that it went in. But my biggest shock of the night, I think, is when E’Twaun went down. He will definitely be tested for drugs."
Williamson scored 24 points in a little less than 29 minutes, and the New Orleans Pelicans defeated Memphis Grizzlies 139-111 on Friday night in the first match of the season between the NBA's top two draft picks.
"His activity was really good and he is still in the learning phase," said Pelican coach Alvin Gentry, who had gotten wet after a dressing room celebration to mark the coach's 500th career win. "He's really trying hard not to get in anyone's way."
Williamson played in only his fifth game since completing a three-month rehabilitation after arthroscopic surgery on the right knee. He turned four hops into baskets, three of them on dunks. He also drove the baseline for a twisting two-handed dunk and reset several offensive rebounds.
The newly elected all-star Brandon Ingram scored 20 points in his 19-point game for the Pelicans, and Lonzo Ball scored five 3-point goals in seven attempts.
Jrue Holiday added 18 points to New Orleans, ending the Western Conference final with 33 games remaining four games behind the grizzlies.
Jonas Valanciunas had 18 points left for Memphis before the foul with 8:11. Grizzlies rookie Ja Morant, who finished second behind Williamson last June, scored 16 points.
"They played great and we weren't that good," said Tyler Jenkins, Grizzlies coach, whose team striker Jaren Jackson Jr. and guard Marco Guduric missed due to a ban in the previous Memphis game.
"We can do our job better as lone fighters regardless of who we have out there," said Jenkins. "Give (the pelicans) appreciation. You played with great strength. "
Little went wrong for the pelicans, which shot down 53.7%, made 15 3's and even had a 32 point lead in the fourth quarter.