After non-call on Zion Williamson, Pelicans coach says ‘strength gets punished in this league’

Zion Williamson took the diplomatic route Wednesday after a key no-call in the closing seconds allowed the Denver Nuggets to escape with a 114-112 win over the New Orleans Pelicans.

Williamson had an opportunity to tie the game in the final moment, but Nikola Jokic blocked Williamson's dunk attempt with about two seconds left. The Nuggets controlled the rebound to secure the win. Replays appeared to show Jokic make contact with Williamson's arm as he went up for the shot, but a foul was not called.

"I gotta earn my respect," Williamson said. "I'm only in year two. I gotta get a couple more years under my belt and hopefully things change with that."

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Foul or no foul? Nikola Jokic blocked Zion Williamson in the closing seconds to secure the Nuggets’ win.

🎥: @BleacherReportpic.twitter.com/Uxrh1cMS1a

Drawing fouls is a big part of Williamson's powerful game. He is second in the NBA in total free throw attempts and fourth in free throw attempts per game.

While Williamson didn't say anything incendiary after the game, his coach was less delicate. Stan Van Gundy said players like Williamson are officiated differently.

"I do think strength gets punished in this league a lot more than quickness," Van Gundy said. "If you're able to go through contact a little bit, it's called differently. If you fall down every time you're hit or you flop, you get calls. That's just the way it is. It's not just Zion, that's just the way it is."

Van Gundy said it's "frustrating" for Williamson to not get calls when he draws contact, but even as his coach went to bat for him, Williamson refused to criticize the officials.

“They didn’t call it… not much I can do about that.”@Zionwilliamson with the poise of a seasoned vet after his the @PelicansNBA heartbreaking loss to the Nuggets. #WontBowDownpic.twitter.com/caxOzS11eS

"They didn't call it," Williamson said. "There's not much I can do about that. I just gotta learn from it and just finish it next time."

Here are four more things to know today in the NBA:

CP3 closes again for Suns

Chris Paul put on another clinic in how to close out a win, and this one snapped the Phoenix Suns' decade-long playoff drought. Paul scored 15 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter Wednesday to lead Phoenix to a 109-101 win over the Los Angeles Clippers that clinched the Suns' first playoff berth since 2010. Paul scored eight straight points for the Suns late in the fourth and 12 of their last 16 to finish off the biggest win of his first season in Phoenix.

"I feel like I say this all time: I know who I am," Paul said. "I knew coming into the situation, I knew who (Devin Booker) was. Book had told me about some of the guys on the team. I knew from playing for Monty (Williams) how detail oriented he was. Then when I got here and got a chance to see the culture they had already built. It's special man."

Chris Paul reflects on the @Suns returning to the #NBAPlayoffs! pic.twitter.com/Rqgo9Hav7B

Celtics respond after callout

A night after Jaylen Brown questioned their lack of urgency, the Boston Celtics bounced back Wednesday with a key 120-111 win over the Charlotte Hornets. Brown scored 38 points and Jayson Tatum had 35 as the Celtics looked like a different team after an embarrassing loss to the lowly Oklahoma City Thunder the night before. Brown implored the Celtics to play with more pride and urgency as the try to maintain ground in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

"That's what it's about," Brown said. "Getting it done, turning it up a notch, hitting that next gear. The season's on the line. We gotta play with that urgency, and it's a part of my responsibility to spark that in everybody else. I gotta come to play every single night."

“We came with a sense of urgency” – Jaylen Brown backs up his harsh comments with a huge night and important win vs Charlotte pic.twitter.com/LvziWHLpQY

Rui catches AD with dunk

The Washington Wizards sent the Los Angeles Lakers stumbling to their fourth loss in five games Wednesday, and Rui Hachimura put Anthony Davis on the wrong end of a huge dunk that was the highlight of the night. Early in the third quarter, Hachimura had a runout on a fastbreak with only Davis between him and the basket. Davis contested, but Hachimura threw down a one-handed flush that sent the Lakers big man sprawling to the floor.

Rui Hachimura puts it down on Anthony Davis! 😤💪

🎥: @espnpic.twitter.com/711PAlbu2b

Game of the night: Nets at Pacers

After clinching a playoff spot with a win in their last game, the Brooklyn Nets turn to securing the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. As the Nets try to hold off the Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks at the top, the Indiana Pacers are looking to maintain their spot in the play-in tournament. The Pacers enter Thursday in ninth place but just a half-game out of eighth and 1½ games ahead of 10th.

Follow Matt Eppers on Twitter @meppers_.

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