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Pelicans’ Willie Green Calls Foul on Lakers’ Free Throw Advantage in Play-In Victory


New Orleans’ coach wasn’t happy with the free throw disparity on Tuesday.

The New Orleans Pelicans fell just short against the Los Angeles Lakers in their 110-106 NBA Play-In Tournament loss on Tuesday night.

While most of the talk will be about whether the Pelicans could have won if star Zion Williamson didn’t have to exit the game in the fourth quarter, New Orleans’ head coach Willie Green was focused on the two teams’ free throw disparity in the postgame press conference:

Said the Pelicans’ head coach, “I don’t feel like we have gotten a great whistle all season… We’re one of the teams that dominates the paint night in and night out, we have a physical force in Zion… It just seems like we’re not getting those calls.”

The Lakers went 26-29 from the free throw line, while the Pelicans shot 11-15. Free throw rates are often correlated to points in the paint, but not on Tuesday night. The Pelicans outscored the Lakers in the paint 62-36.

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The Lakers have solid interior defenders, but the Pelicans do as well. New Orleans was a top-10 defense in the NBA this season.

Green and the Pelicans aren’t eliminated from the postseason, however. While the Lakers earned the Western Conference’s 7th seed with the win, the Pelicans wait to play the winner of the Golden State Warriors vs. Sacramento Kings game. The winner of that matchup will be the 8th seed in the west.

All eyes on Pelicans star Zion Williamson

New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson (1) gets medical attention during the first half against the Los Angeles Lakers in a play-in game of the 2024 NBA playoffs against the New Orleans Pelicans at Smoothie King Center
© Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Williamson came up grimacing after scoring an inside bucket against Anthony Davis in the fourth quarter and later exited to the locker room in frustration with an apparent ailment.

Head Coach Willie Green called Williamson’s injury “left leg soreness” and said the star will get an imaging on it Wednesday, per Will Guillory. Hopefully, the injury is not too serious and he undergoes a speedy recovery.

Williamson was having a phenomenal game before his exit. He amassed 40 points, 11 rebounds, and five assists towards the end of the game. The star forward was critical to the Pelicans’ resistance to the Lakers’ intense attack.

In the end, the Pelicans needed more support for Williamson from their other stars. CJ McCollum ended the night with just nine points in 30 minutes. New Orleans would have liked for Brandon Ingram to produce more on offense, but he is still getting back into rhythm after returning from a knee contusion.

Ultimately, the Pelicans need Williamson healthy and playing like he did before he went down with the injury if they hope to advance out of the Play-In Tournament.

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It remains to be seen how severe Williamson’s injury is, but it had to have been at least relatively significant if it forced him out of the biggest game of his career with the Pelicans on the verge of claiming the 7th seed.


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