The Los Angeles Clippers took to the court on Friday night in New Orleans and met up with the Pelicans, who were without both Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday. While the game lacked all the capable star talent that you'd like to see when these two teams face off against one another, it still turned out to be a pretty interesting battle nonetheless.
|Los Angeles Clippers||26||28||22||27||103|
|New Orleans Pelicans||28||25||35||20||108|
The first quarter of play tipped in the favor of the home side as the Clippers struggled early on to get some guys going. J.J. Redick scored eight points in the opening frame and Blake Griffin dropped in seven of his own, but everyone else combined for just eleven points. The Pelicans, thanks to the stellar play of Eric Gordon in the quarter, led by one after the first. Gordon's ten points paced them, including hitting both of his threes, and they also got key baskets by Quincy Pondexter and Tyreke Evans -- both of whom made threes themselves. Griffin managed to have 7 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists in the opening stanza for the Clippers.
The Clippers bench, which had been playing better as of late, came in to start the second quarter and actually didn't lose any ground. The unit actually went +2 during their time on the floor and could thank Austin Rivers a little bit. Doc's son had four points and a nice assist to Glen Davis as Rivers drove to the lane. The Clippers defense also picked up just a tad in the second quarter, holding the Pelicans to 35.0 percent shooting (7-for-20). However, New Orleans managed to make three of their seven threes, including two by Ryan Anderson. Thanks to Chris Paul's layup with 3.2 seconds to go, the Clippers held a one point edge, 54-53, at halftime. At the intermission, Blake Griffin had 11-3-3 and Chris Paul had 7-4-3. DeAndre Jordan continued to anchor the paint with good interior defense and huge offensive rebounds. He finished the half with 8 points and 7 rebounds, as well as a block. J.J. Redick had 10 points.
The second half got off to an ominous start as the Pelicans went on a 13-4 run to kickoff the third quarter. After a timeout to settle things down, the Clippers came back with a 7-2 run of their own to cut the Pelicans lead from eight to three nearly halfway through the quarter. After a timeout of their own, the Pelicans then answered back with another 13-4 run. After a sequence saw the Clippers cut the Pelicans twelve point lead down to nine, Austin Rivers got a bad foul against Jimmer Fredette who was going to heave a three at the end of the quarter. Fredette made all three of the foul shots and New Orleans found themselves up by twelve going to the fourth quarter. The Pelicans shot 50.0 percent in the quarter but went 5-for-8 from three and 8-for-8 from the line while the Clippers went 9-for-21 (42.9 percent) from the field and 1-for-6 from three.
Despite looking like all hope was lost, the Clippers came out early in the fourth with some fire and determination. They actually started on a 6-2 run through the first 3:30 and cut the Pelicans lead down to eight points due to good defensive possessions. Unfortunately, that run stopped when they dropped a defensive rebound out of bounds and gave up an offensive rebound that resulted in a dunk by Alexis Ajinca. If that wasn't bad enough, Ajinca got fouled by Griffin the next time down the floor and made the shot and free throw to give the Pelicans a 13-point lead with 7:38 to go. And then Chris Paul happened. A mid-range jumper, a right-handed tear drop, and a three in transition. Seven straight points for the dynamite point guard cut the Pelicans lead down to six with 5:57 to go. Paul got a steal and DeAndre Jordan then putback the corner three miss by Matt Barnes to trim the lead to four. Paul then got a defensive rebound and drilled a three to cut it down to one point. It was a 12-0 Clippers run that was spearheaded by the Point God and it appeared that we had all the makings of a great finish.
After a Tyreke Evans layup, which was massively contested and tough, the Pelicans found themselves up by four with 3:14 to go. Two free throws by Jamal Crawford cut the deficit down to two until Eric Gordon hit an unbelievable shot to push it back up to four. Then the Clippers did something peculiar. In a pivotal possession down the stretch, they opted to not put the ball into the hands of Chris Paul. Instead, Crawford drove and missed a wild shot and the Pelicans came down and got a huge dunk by Dante Cunningham to go ahead by six points with 90 seconds to go. After a crazy sequence that resulted in a Redick airball and Jordan offensive rebound, Paul nailed a free-throw line jumper to cut it back to four until Gordon hit another unreal shot to make it six again. After an Evans missed layup, Paul found Crawford in transition for a three that cut the Pelicans lead down to three with 22.5 to go. Unfortunately, it was as close as they'd get. Fredette knocked down two free throws after the Clippers intentionally fouled, Crawford missed a three he had to heave, and the Pelicans ran out the clock after corralling the rebound and won, 108-103.
1.) This could be considered a game out of oddities if you really wanted to go that route. The Clippers, for the year, have held to teams to 34.6 percent shooting from beyond the arc. Teams, on average, go about 8-for-23 or 8-for-24 against them. Tonight, the Pelicans, who shoot just 34.1 percent from three on roughly 19 attempts per game, went 13-for-25 (52.0 percent) and made a lot of tough shots down the stretch of this game. Without Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday, you wouldn't really expect this sort of performance. But it happened. You kind of just deal with these games when they present themselves and move on.
2.) Blake Griffin might have finished with 19 points, 6 assists, and 4 rebounds on 7-for-14 from the field but he was pretty lackluster tonight. People will point to the rebounds as the biggest issue with him from this game but his general lack of attacking Ryan Anderson defensively stood out more as I watched it unfold. There was a point in the game where Omer Asik grabbed Griffin's arm and yanked him back as Griffin ran to contest an Anderson three. Griffin seemed like he was in some pain afterwards and perhaps that had an affect on how he played the rest of the game but it's hard to say. Ryan Anderson outplayed Blake Griffin tonight. No two ways about it.
3.) Chris Paul was seemingly quiet for the first three quarters, totaling just ten points, but picked it up in the fourth quarter where he put in 14 of his team-high 24. He practically keyed the 12-0 run, that got the Clippers back into the game, by himself. The baffling thing were the possessions down the stretch where he either passed up a good look or just didn't touch the ball. It's hard to find blame with a guy who played a good game and finished with 24 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists, and 3 steals on 10-for-20 shooting, though. Paul was the only reason the Clippers even sniffed the Pelicans late in this game.
4.) The Clippers shot 7-for-28 from three. It was bad. They're the number three three-point shooting team in the league, making 38.3 percent. Only Golden State and Atlanta, both of whom make 38.7 percent, are higher than the Clippers. But the team looked really bad from beyond the arc. J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford were a combined 1-for-11 from three and the team needed someone to make those shots. Matt Barnes went 2-for-5 and Hedo Turkoglu made his only attempt. Paul was 3-for-9. The team just struggled to make the shots they had. Quite a few of them were relatively open but just flat missed. It happens.
5.) The Clippers did attack New Orleans inside, which is a good thing. The team tallied 54 points in the paint to the Pelicans 34. Clippers shot 27-for-46 (58.7 percent) in the paint while New Orleans went 17-for-35 (48.6 percent). In retrospect, the Clippers actually won the game where they needed to. They beat the Pelicans inside with scoring and generally did well there. No one could foresee the Pelicans going +18 from beyond the arc and +11 from the line. The Clippers average more free throw makes and threes than the Pelicans do but lost both. But it is nice that the Clippers did attack inside at times.
6.) New Orleans rebounded 28.0 percent (14 of 50) of their misses in this game. If you recall from the preview thread, that's the exact same Offensive Rebound Rate that the Pelicans had coming into this game. Even without Anthony Davis, they can attack the offensive glass. Noted Clipper killer Alexis Ajinca had four, as did Ryan Anderson. Omer Asik and Dante Cunningham each had two. Here's the problem, though. It's not all the bigs fault. Chris Paul dug down amongst the bigs for rebounds but very few others did. Matt Barnes finished with just three rebounds and the shooting guard duo of Redick and Crawford combined for two. That can't happen against teams like this who can muscle you down low. The entire team has to hustle and do it. It's a total team effort. Some of the offensive rebounds were of the long variety after a missed three. That happens, though. However, a better collective effort is required.
7.) Austin Rivers played solidly in his return to New Orleans and actually was the leading bench scorer for a long time in this game. He finished with 10 points on 4-for-8 shooting. Oh, and he made both of his free throws. Vastly different player than the previous point guard off the bench, that's for sure. He played 14:14 tonight, which is pretty much in line with what he's been playing during competitive games so that's not too shocking. Rivers might see more playing time tomorrow, though, since the team is in San Antonio and on a back-to-back. We'll see how he continues to progress.
8.) Huge game by former Clipper Eric Gordon. He finished with a game-high 28 points, 7 assists, and 2 rebounds while going 10-for-20 overall and 5-for-7 from three. Any time the Pelicans needed a huge basket, they turned to EJ. He hit a three that stopped the Clippers huge run in the fourth quarter then hit two impossibly tough shots late to ice the game and keep the Clippers at arm's reach. Hell of a performance by him and it was great to see him playing well, even if it was against his former team and resulted in a loss. You kind of root for guys like that.
9.) The Pelicans were without Anthony Davis but that's okay because Alexis Ajinca turns into Anthony Davis whenever he sees the Clippers. He finished with 17 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 blocks. To say he was making his presence felt would be an understatement. Somehow he went -7 game in the game for +/- but it certainly didn't feel like it when he was on the court. He just always kills the Clippers and his ability to play alongside Ryan Anderson opened up quite a few things for the Pelicans.
10.) This was a pretty odd game with all things considered. The Clippers shot poorly from three and the Pelicans shot great. New Orleans only went 23-for-61 (37.7 percent) on non-three-point attempts during this game. So it's pretty ridiculous that they actually managed to win but that's what happens when you make 13 threes while the other team struggles to even make seven of them. Clippers will have to live with this loss. It's definitely a disappointing one considering who was out for the Pelicans.
When the Los Angeles Clippers look back on the year, this game might haunt them. The Portland Trail Blazers lost to the Atlanta Hawks today and, at the present moment, the Utah Jazz are up by 16 on the Golden State Warriors. This could be a huge win that the Clippers missed out on. Had they won it, they'd be the outright 3-seed right now. But rather they're stuck in the 5-seed and now have to go into San Antonio tomorrow night to play the rested Spurs and try to be competitive with them.
The Spurs are 12-4 over their last 16 games and are starting to look more and more like the machine that we knew them to be. Getting healthy can do that. The road trip is off to a 1-1 start and the Clippers now must try to salvage tough matchups the rest of the way. It certainly won't be easy but going 4-4 is doable on this trip, possibly even 5-3. There's just a real possibility this could turn into a 2-6 trip, as well. One game doesn't make a trip but the loss tonight could certainly very well sting for quite some time. They can't sulk too long, though. The Spurs will show them no pity.