NEW ORLEANS - Zion Williamson capped his long-awaited NBA debut by scoring 17 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter and stirring the crowd into a frenzy — only to see his team come up short.
LaMarcus Aldridge had 32 points and 14 rebounds and DeMar DeRozan added 20 points as San Antonio withstood Williamson's late surge for a 121-117 victory over the Pelicans on Wednesday night.
After spending the past three months rehabilitating from arthroscopic knee surgery, Williamson struggled for three quarters, during which he played a little less than 12 minutes. When the fourth quarter began, he had only five points, four rebounds, an assist and four turnovers.
But when Williamson found himself open for a straight-on three with about nine minutes to go, he let it fly and it went down, infusing the stadium with energy. He followed that up with a torrid three-minute stretch in which he laid in an alley-oop lob, put back a missed shot with a reverse layup and hit three more threes.
He finished the surge with a free throw as the crowd chanted, "M-V-P!"
He was subbed out shortly after with the Pelicans, who trailed by 12 to start the period, down only 109-108. But he did not return to the game, much to the displeasure of fans who chanted, "We want Zion!"
He finished with seven rebounds and three assists along with five turnovers in 18 minutes, going 8-for-11 from the field, including 4-for-4 from three-point range.
Meanwhile, the Spurs began to pull away again. DeRozan began San Antonio's decisive surge with a finger roll and pullup jumper. Aldridge followed with a tip-in and jumper.
New Orleans got as close as 119-117 on Josh Hart's three, but Aldridge responded with two free throws and the Spurs did not allow another basket.