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Clippers-Pelicans preview: Pit Stop 2 of 8

After an ugly win against the Utah Jazz to kickoff their annual Grammy Road Trip, the Los Angeles Clippers head to New Orleans to meet up with Anthony Davis and his ragtag group of Pelicans. Will the trip be kind for a second game or will there be a bump in the road?

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
2014/2015 NBA Regular Season

January 30th, 2015, 5:00 PM
Smoothie King Center (New Orleans, Louisiana)
FS West, FS New Orleans, KFWB 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM
Win-Loss Breakdown (2014-2015)
13-8 East 7-10
19-6 West 17-12
7-2 Division 6-4
20-7 Home 15-6
12-7 Road 9-16
11-11 .500+ 11-14
21-3 .500- 13-8
1-0 OT 0-2
8-2 L10 6-4
Probable Starters
Chris Paul PG Tyreke Evans
J.J. Redick SG Eric Gordon
Matt Barnes SF Dante Cunningham
Blake Griffin PF Ryan Anderson
DeAndre Jordan C Omer Asik
Advanced Stats
96.21 (14th of 30) Pace 94.12 (27th of 30)
111.0 (1st of 30) ORtg 105.5 (8th of 30)
103.5 (14th of 30) DRtg 105.0 (22nd of 30)

Jrue Holiday (Out) Leg

Anthony Davis (Out) Groin

Clippers lead 2014-2015 season series over Pelicans; 1-0
Clips Nation Recap
ESPN Box Score
Los Angeles
Clippers 120, Pelicans 100
Box Score

The Big Picture
Thanks to their gritty win last night in Salt Lake City, the Clippers have won six games in a row. Due to this winning streak, and other teams in the West losing a few, the team has moved up a few spots in the West race and has ultimately seen themselves go from the 6-seed to the 4-seed. After a sluggish start to the year, the team has gone 13-4 since Christmas. It was as if they got the present they wanted under the tree. The last time the Clippers were in New Orleans, though, they ended up losing 98-96 and Chris Paul went 0-for-12 from the field. The Clippers can’t get caught looking too far ahead to the night after when they’ll be in San Antonio to play the Spurs. They’re also looking to notch their fourth win against a .500 or better team on the road, but it won’t come easy as New Orleans has lost just six times at home all year.

The Antagonist
The Pelicans lost at home to the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday night, almost like the Clippers did on Monday. New Orleans is an interesting case, though. They’re really good at home but really bad on the road. They also really seem to love hanging around that .500 mark. The most games they’ve been over .500 all year has been three but that dwindled down to two after the loss to Denver. They do have some great wins on their resume. Wins against San Antonio, Oklahoma City when Kevin Durant returned, Cleveland, Houston, Memphis, and Dallas are good ones to have. They’ll be without Jrue Holiday, who is out with a lower right leg injury, but they’re still capable of winning even against the upper-tier teams. This is the start of a really tough five game stretch for them, as well. They get the Clippers, Hawks, Thunder in a home-and-home, and Bulls. This could say a lot about their chances.

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The Subplots
Comparison of Key Metrics
Thank god for metrics here. If you went by raw points per game allowed, you’d find that the Pelicans give up fewer points than the Clippers do. However, peeling back and adjusting it, you find that New Orleans really isn’t that good of a defensive team which is almost hard to fathom considering the players they have at their disposal. We all know the story here, though. The Clippers lead the NBA in Offensive Efficiency and are middle-of-the-road in Defensive Efficiency. The Pelicans, meanwhile, have improved upon their Offensive Efficiency and Defensive Efficiency compared to last year but still have problems elsewhere. Namely, they rank 18th in the NBA in Effective Field Goal Percentage. Among the ten worst teams in Defensive Efficiency, the Pelicans (+0.5) are just one of two to post a positive Net Rating. The other being the Cleveland Cavaliers (+1.0). So bad defense be damned, they still are a slightly better-than-average team.
Screw you, Grammy Road Trip. Just screw you, okay? I hope you go away and never return. In fact, screw the Grammy’s. Why do we even care about the Grammy’s in the first place? Coldplay can win a damn Grammy for Song of the Year but Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley couldn’t win a single Grammy whatsoever? Nah, I’m not cool with that. Seal out here winning with "Kiss from a Rose" but Hendrix can’t win for "Purple Haze" or "All Along the Watchtower"? I can’t deal with this. Grammy’s should have been cast away years ago after that kind of travesty was taking place. Anyways, this is stop two of eight for the Clippers. After this, they’re in San Antonio the next night then Brooklyn on Monday before two days off to recharge their batteries. We’ve already covered that stuff enough. New Orleans kicks off a tough five game stretch, as mentioned, with this game but then welcomes struggling Utah and Indiana into town before going to Orlando and Miami right after the All-Star Break. Their schedule from here on out really isn’t that meddlesome. Sure, there’s tough games in there but they could squeak out 45 wins or so based on opponents.
Beast v Brow
It sounds weird to even say considering how good Anthony Davis is, but Blake Griffin does quite well against him when they matchup. And it goes far beyond just sheer wins and losses, which sees the Clippers holding a 6-1 advantage. In those seven games, Griffin is averaging 21.6 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 3.0 assists on 52.6 percent shooting. Davis, on the other hand, is averaging 19.3 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 1.1 assists on 47.1 percent shooting. They’re each averaging 0.9 steals per contest and Davis is averaging 1.6 blocks to Griffin’s 0.6. It’s also Griffin’s ability to get into the body of Davis and give him fits with foul trouble and strength. Blake tends to struggle with length but not with Davis’ length for some reason. And in one of the oddest things about their matchup, Davis only registered 3 rebounds during their last meeting which was tied for the fewest amount of rebounds he’s had in any game he’s played at least 25 minutes in. Anthony Davis hurt his groin in New Orleans’ last game and there’s no telling how long he’ll play in this one but his frequent health issues could start to become worrisome quite soon. He hasn’t played 70 games in a season yet.
Visiting An Old Friend
Feels like Eric Gordon has been in the NBA for about a decade, doesn’t it? He’s still only 26 years old. He just hasn’t been the same since getting traded away in the Chris Paul deal, though. After posting career highs in points, assists, and rebounds that final year in Los Angeles, Gordon has struggled to stay healthy in New Orleans. He’s only played in 140 of the 312 games (45 percent) the team has played during that time. Not what you’d like to get out of a guy you’re paying about $14.6 million per year. It should also be mentioned that his points per game have gone down every single year with the Pelicans. But he’s had an interesting year. After coming back from a labrum tear, he’s averaged 14.3 points and 4.9 assists on 45/42/85 shooting over the last 13 games. So he can still do good things. This will be his first game against the Clippers since March 1st of last year when he went 1-for-13 and finished with two points. Gordon and Griffin made the Clippers fun to watch during their only year together and I’ll always wish him the best no matter what. Not this coming offseason but the one after, it’ll be interesting to see how his free agent sweepstakes play out.
Jordan Rules
DeAndre Jordan isn’t what you would call a great free throw shooter. In fact, among players with at least 500 free throw attempts in their career, his 42.3 percent rate from the line ranks third worst in NBA history. Only Ben Wallace (41.4 percent) and Andre Drummond (40.7 percent) find themselves lower. So, naturally, certain teams have tried to exploit this a little bit lately and began fouling Jordan intentionally with the Hack-A-Whoever strategy. However, despite him only shooting 40.4 percent from the charity stripe this season, Jordan has gone on to shoot 45.1 percent in the fourth quarter. Even last year, he shot 53.8 percent in the fourth quarter. Since becoming the starting center early in the 2010-2011 season, Jordan has shot 149-for-293 (50.9 percent) from the free throw line in the fourth quarter. Factoring in his entire career, he’s a 46.8 percent free throw shooter in the fourth. So while teams feel the need to intentionally foul DeAndre Jordan to slow the tempo down and change things up, Jordan’s showcased the ability to at least be adequate enough to make them pay from the line. It’ll be interesting to see if Monty Williams tries to follow suit and foul him.
Ryan Anderson loves to shoot. He loves to come into the game and just start chucking shots. It’s what he does. And he loves to let it fly from deep. Nearly a half of his shots are from three (49.0 percent) and he’s making 35.2 percent of them. When he comes onto the floor, the Clippers bigs must locate him immediately and stick to him like glue. When the Pelicans run their pick-and-roll sets to get Anderson freed up for threes, they have to not only disrupt the guard but also get back in time to disrupt what Anderson wants to do. New Orleans tries to space you out as best as they can with him and Davis in there together. It can create problems for bigs who don’t like defending in space or on the perimeter. Clippers can’t allow themselves to get out of sorts and forget what their assignments are. Containing Anderson could be the key to winning this game.
CP3 Returns To Nola
The first six years of Chris Paul’s career were spent with the Hornets organization. His first year coincided with the Hornets being relocated from New Orleans to Oklahoma City after Hurricane Katrina. Because of the devastation caused by the hurricane, the Hornets were only able to play 10 total home games in the city of New Orleans during Chris Paul’s first two years with the organization. During his six years with them, though, he averaged 18.7 points, 9.9 assists, 4.6 rebounds, and 2.4 steals on 47/36/85 shooting. He even had two of the most incredible seasons for a point guard where he registered back-to-back 3000 minute seasons, averaged a 29.1 PER during them, and put up 21.9 points, 11.3 assists, 4.8 rebounds, and 2.7 steals on 50/37/86 shooting. He was simply incredible. While Paul’s departure from the city was tough for some to swallow, he did provide them with some relief on the court during a period of time that was very tumultuous for the entire city. His last visit to New Orleans did not go quite so well, though. It featured a 0-for-12 shooting performance which went down as Chris Paul’s worst shooting game in his collegiate or professional career.
As The Rivers Flow, S1 | E7
Welcome to another episode of our favorite "Doc"udrama. Since coming to the Clippers, Austin Rivers is averaging 4.3 points, 2.0 assists, and 1.7 rebounds on 39/33/17 shooting in 16.7 minutes. I wish I was making up that free throw percentage, but I am not. Small sample sizes and whatnot, though. However, his most important contribution to the Clippers happened in the team’s last game. In the narrow win against Utah, Rivers tallied 12 points on 5-for-8 shooting and hit two threes. He actually seems like he knows where he’s supposed to be and what he’s supposed to do. He’s showcased good energy defensively, a good offensive awareness, and can get to the rim. It’ll be interesting to see how much longer of a leash Papa Doc gives him. The 22:22 he played against Utah was the most minutes he’s played for the Clippers in a non-blowout. He played 23:59 against Brooklyn but that game was over at halftime and he played a ton in the second half. It’s nice to see a guard off the bench who understands basic concepts and knows what his role is.
Paint Inside The Lines
You’d think that having a starting power forward and center combination of Anthony Davis and Omer Asik would generate a great interior defense. Except that has not been the case. The Pelicans give up 47.5 paint points per 100 possessions, which is the second worst mark in the NBA. The good news for them, however, is that they do block 6.2 shots per 100 possessions, which is good for third behind the Chicago Bulls and Utah Jazz. They also allow teams to shoot 59.9 percent (16th) inside the Restricted Area, 58.6 percent (13th) inside of 5 feet, and 55.5 percent (12th) inside of 8 feet. The Pelicans, despite playing a brutally slow pace, give up the most shot attempts per game inside of the Restricted Area and inside of 5 feet. Only Phoenix gives up more shots per game inside of 8 feet. And Phoenix plays a way faster pace – five more possessions per game, in fact. Attacking the Pelicans inside could be a big deal in this game since New Orleans gives up the fourth fewest three point attempts per 100 possessions (20.5). Only the Spurs (19.7), Trail Blazers (18.9), and Bulls (18.4) give up fewer. Paint points could be big for the Clippers.
Clean The Windows
Pelicans are tied for second in the league in Offensive Rebound Rate (28.0) while the Clippers are sixth in Defensive Rebound Rate (76.0). To put it plain and simple, the Clippers have got to keep the Pelicans off the glass. Among players that average at least 25 minutes per game, Omer Asik ranks fourth in the NBA in Offensive Rebound Rate (14.8) behind guys like Andre Drummond (17.0), Tristan Thompson (15.3), and DeAndre Jordan (15.2). Among the 157 players that qualify with the 25 minutes per game mark, Anthony Davis also ranks 28th (8.3) and Ryan Anderson ranks 38th (7.2). Oddly enough, Anderson actually is slightly higher than Kevin Love (7.1) and Blake Griffin (6.6). In terms of Total Rebound Rate, Omer Asik ranks third in the NBA while Anthony Davis ranks 21st. DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin rank 2nd and 46th, respectively. While the Clippers bigs can match up with the Pelicans bigs physically, it’s also up to the Clippers wing players to dive in and help on the glass in an effort to end defensive sequences. They can’t allow New Orleans to get extra possessions as often as they allowed Utah to do so.
Eric Gordon was one of the key ingredients in the Chris Paul trade a few years ago. Austin Rivers is a former member of the Pelicans and was drafted by them with the pick the Clippers gave them (from the Minnesota Timberwolves) in the Paul trade. Spencer Hawes and Quincy Pondexter were teammates for only one year at the University of Washington. Jrue Holiday and Matt Barnes both attended UCLA and former Clipper Darren Collison was a teammate of Holiday’s for a year there. C.J. Wilcox and Nate Wolters played each other one time in college, with Wolters’ South Dakota State beating Wilcox’s Washington side. Omer Asik and Hedo Turkoglu are both from Turkey, making them two of just seven players from Turkey to play in the NBA. Austin Rivers and Jeff Withey met up one time in college as Duke downed Kansas. Dahntay Jones and John Salmons played a couple times in college when Jones was on Rutgers before transferring to Duke and Salmons was on Miami. Austin Rivers and Anthony Davis never met up in college but they were the top two high school basketball recruits that year. Jimmer Fredette and Clippers announcer Mike Smith both went to Brigham Young. Last but certainly not least, Chris Paul was coached by Monty Williams for one year and played alongside Quincy Pondexter during that season. Chris Paul and Anthony Davis are also the sole reasons Monty Williams even has a job right now and isn’t pumping gas somewhere back in Virginia or Maryland.
Wikipedia Entry
The Pelican was the name of a train that used to run from New York City all the way down to New Orleans and back. It hasn’t been in service since 1970, though. Pelican Stadium was also the name of the baseball park in New Orleans that housed the New Orleans Pelicans, a minor league team, from 1915 through 1957. Some of the famous notable Pelicans were Shoeless Joe Jackson, Dazzy Vance, Bob Lemon, Joe Sewell, and Earl Weaver. Also, Pelicans are freaking incredible when it comes diving and eating pigeons. These things are mean as hell. Woo boy I could watch that all day. Oh and they also attack people.