The LA Clippers’ good vibes came to a screeching halt on Monday night, as they took a rough 120-103 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans.
The game came down to a cruel reversal of fortune from the three-point Gods, as the Clippers, who will likely finish the season as the greatest high-volume three-point-shooting team in NBA history, shot just 31% from downtown, while the Pelicans, who rank 25th in three-point percentage, knocked down 15 of their 29 attempts, good for 51.7%.
This disparity would not have been totally insurmountable had the Clippers at least done a decent job of protecting the paint, but that turned out to be an equally weak spot in their defense. The Pelicans made 21 of their 32 baskets at the rim, good for 65.6%. They also got to the free throw line 26 times for good measure. At one point in the first quarter, they made 10 consecutive baskets. It was a dominant offensive performance, spearheaded by a man who defies all basketball logic and physics.
Zion runs the show
Zion Williamson torched the Clippers in their last matchup back in March, and he applied the same tactics in Monday night’s game. He went for 23 points on 8-11 shooting, and dished out five assists in his role as “Point Zion.” If viewers have somehow become accustomed to his insane speed and athleticism, they can now marvel at his passing ability. He got to the rim with ease against LA, and was able to pass out of their collapsed defense to find shooters. On nights like Monday, where his teammates are making their threes at an efficient clip, the Pelicans become a nearly unstoppable offense.
New Orleans slows down a red-hot Paul George
Paul George has been on a phenomenal scoring streak as of late, averaging 32.9 points per game over his last eight contests entering Monday night’s game. The Pelicans put a stop to George’s offensive onslaught, holding the All-Star to just nine points on 3-11 shooting (1-6 from three) in 25 minutes of action. Pelicans Head Coach Stan Van Gundy elected to have Lonzo Ball guard George, and the lengthy 6’6 guard did an excellent job. He denied George his usual pindown action, and fought hard over screens in pick-and-roll situations.
George rolls his ankle as a crucial Phoenix matchup looms
Midway through the third quarter, George landed on teammate Terance Mann and rolled his right ankle. He came up a bit hobbled and the game was already essentially a blowout, so he didn’t play much after the incident. After the game, George was asked how the ankle felt, and whether this injury would affect his ability to play in Wednesday’s game against the Phoenix Suns.
The matchup with the Suns will go a long way in determining who secures the no. 2 seed in the Western Conference. As it stands now, LA is a game behind Phoenix. A win would tie the two teams (though Phoenix would still have a slightly higher win percentage due to fewer games played), but LA owns the tie-breaker. If George is a no-go, the Clippers are going to struggle against Chris Paul, Devin Booker and company.
There is a possibility that Kawhi Leonard returns to face Phoenix, as he did travel with the team on their road trip despite being sidelined with a sore right foot.
Lue also noted postgame that Nicolas Batum was unable to finish Monday’s game due to some sort of shoulder injury. There is no indication whether this will affect his ability to play against Phoenix.
The crucial Western Conference face-off will begin on Wednesday at 7 p.m.