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Pelicans-Grizzlies to feature a rare matchup between Williamson and Morant

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

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

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

“Zion was a beast from start to finish,” said New Orleans coach Willie Green. “He drives the ball and kicks it to his teammates and takes advantage of the mismatch.”

The win, the Pelicans’ fifth in six games, came two nights after they defeated the Golden State Warriors by 45 points.

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

New Orleans played without starting guard CJ McCollum (non-COVID disease) against San Antonio, but Graham Devonte came off the bench to score 21 points, hitting six three-pointers, and quarterback Jonas Valanciunas added 22 points and 10 rebounds.

“Our defense was really clicking,” said Williamson.

Morant, who had 36 points but only 20 after the first quarter loss to New Orleans, returned from missing one game due to a sprained ankle when the Grizzlies lost to Sacramento 113-109 on Tuesday night.

Morant scored 20 points in the fourth quarter, including a three-point play that pulled Memphis by one with 5.3 seconds left in the game.

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

“I missed it. Game over,” Morant said. “It builds character. I’ve been there before.”

He added, “We threw some open looks and missed, and they turned it into points. They turned our conversions into points. That created a hole, and we had to respond late in this match.”

Desmond Bane remains sidelined with a sprained big toe, but Jaren Jackson Jr. made his season debut in Game 1 against the Pelicans after undergoing offseason foot surgery.

The Pelicans have won all four games that Williamson and Morant have each contested, the most recent of which was a 144-113 victory over New Orleans in Memphis on February 16, 2021.

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

In Williamson’s absence in the final meeting, McCollum scored 30 points to lead the Pelicans’ six by double figures, and New Orleans hit 18 three-pointers on 38 attempts.

–Field level of arguments

Copyright 2022 STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and the Associated Press is strictly prohibited.

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