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Rudy Gobert compliments Pelicans’ Zion Williamson after 75-percent shooting against Jazz

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The New Orleans Pelicans’ last two opponents — the Atlanta Hawks and Chicago Bulls — are not exactly known for their defense so the reception to rookie Zion Williamson’s explosive performances was met with a combination of tempered awe. But next up on their calendar was perennial Western Conference playoff contender the Utah Jazz bannered by the two-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert.

It was more of the same for the teenager, however, as he finished the night with a game-high 26 points on a blistering 75-percent accuracy, sinking 9 of 12 from the field mostly inside against the Stifle Tower. The burly forward even showed a rare touch from outside, connecting on his one and only attempt from three-point range.

Gobert was congratulatory of Zion’s efforts during a postgame interview with ESPN’s Andrew Lopez, joking that at least he didn’t end up on a poster.

“He’s kind of surprisingly agile,” Gobert said. “I think he catches a lot of people off guard because of that. He can change direction pretty quick.”

For his part, Zion downplayed his stat line saying he was just being aggressive because not doing so would guarantee that the 7-foot-2 center will just be swatting his shots to the front row.

“You gotta give him respect, two-time Defensive Player of the Year,” Williamson said. “Just gotta go in there strong and try to finish.”

Preseason action rarely wow fans but it does give a flavor of what to expect from players and so far, Zion has been living up to the hype despite concerns of his lack of length. With the regular season just right around the corner, we’re about to see if it translates.