NBA play-in: Zion Williamson's 40-point night halted by leg injury in Pelicans loss vs. Lakers

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - APRIL 16: Zion Williamson #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans drives against Taurean Prince #12 and LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the first half of a game at the Smoothie King Center on April 16, 2024 in New Orleans, Louisiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

Zion Williamson was having one of the best nights of his career in the NBA play-in tournament. It ended badly, and not just because the New Orleans Pelicans lost.

The All-Star forward exited the Pelicans' 110-106 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers with an apparent leg injury, leaving in the final minutes of a 40-point performance. Pelicans head coach Willie Green described the issue as "left leg soreness" to reporters after the game.

The Athletic's Shams Charania later reported Williamson is believed to have sustained a hamstring injury.

Williamson will undergo imaging Wednesday, two days before the Pelicans' second play-in game against the Sacramento Kings, who defeated the Golden Sate Warriors on Tuesday.

The injury occurred on a layup by Williamson against Anthony Davis, after which Williamson pulled up limping and requested to be taken out of the game. He was visibly frustrated as he headed from the bench to the locker room, slamming a towel down on the court.

The TNT broadcast later reported Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin had moved down to the locker room, underscoring the seriousness of the injury.

The injury ruined a superb postseason debut for Williamson, who had led the Pelicans on an 18-point comeback to tie the game late in the fourth quarter. On a night in which the Pelicans' shooting had gone cold, posting a 9-of-30 mark from deep, his aggression in the paint came up huge against a Lakers team used to controlling the paint.

Williamson shot 17-of-27 from the field, accounting for 44.7% of the Pelicans' 38 makes before he exited the game.

The Pelicans hung around after the injury, but the momentum clearly shifted as soon as Williamson reached the locker room. It was a rough twist for a player who has dealt with injury issues throughout his five-year NBA career. He played a career-high 70 games this season, but ended up having to miss the most important minutes of his team's season so far.

The loss leaves New Orleans headed to the final West play-in game, where they will host the Kings for a shot at earning the 8 seed and a series against the No. 1 seed Oklahoma City Thunder.

As for the Lakers, they locked themselves in as the No. 7 seed, with a rematch against the Denver Nuggets on the docket.