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Clippers-Pelicans Preview: For the Birds

Will the Clippers feast on the birds for a second day in a row?

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

2015-16 NBA Regular Season
New Orleans Pelicans (4-11)

Los Angeles Clippers (7-8)
November 27, 2015 — 7:30 PM PDT
STAPLES Center — Los Angeles, CA
Prime Ticket, The Beast 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM
Win-Loss Breakdown ('15-'16)
4-11 Record 7-8
0-5 East 1-1
4-6 West 6-7
2-1 Division 3-3
3-4 Home 5-4
1-7 Road 2-4
2-8 .500+ 3-5
2-3 .500– 4-3
0-0 OT 0-0
4-6 L10 3-7
Projected Starters
Jrue Holiday PG Chris Paul
Eric Gordon SG J.J. Redick
Alonzo Gee SF Wesley Johnson
Anthony Davis PF Blake Griffin
Omer Asik C DeAndre Jordan
Efficiency Stats ('15-'16)
100.8 (7th) Pace 99.0 (16th)
102.2 (12th) OffRtg 104.5 (5th)
108.8 (29th) DefRtg 104.0 (23rd)
-6.6 (25th) NetRtg 0.5 (14th)
Injury Report
Tyreke Evans (knee) questionable
Quincy Pondexter (knee) out
Kendrick Perkins (pectoral) out
Norris Cole (ankle) out
'14-'15 Season Series (Clippers won 2-1)
Clips Nation Recap
NBA Box Score
Los Angeles
Clippers 120, Pelicans 100
Box Score
New Orleans
Pelicans 108, Clippers 103
Box Score
Los Angeles
Clippers 107, Pelicans 100
Box Score

The Big Picture:

It's Black Friday, and two of the league's three biggest disappointments (hi Houston, we didn't forget you!) come in shopping for improvement. For the Clippers, that improvement is likely to come internally, if at all. Doc Rivers' summer spree has stocked the cupboards, but the embattled ball coach must find the right combination of ingredients because the current mix is resulting in a team that is clearly something less than the sum of its parts. This team with eyes on a title run instead sports a net rating befitting a fringe playoff contender. It's early, but the schedule has eased up to give the Clippers an opportunity to fatten up for the holidays. It's now up to Doc and his players to right what's wronged them and prove that their eyes weren't bigger than their collective stomach.

The Antagonist:

It's difficult to ever get a good feel for the Pelicans as a whole, because they never seem to be whole. Of course, when you collect well-established injury risks like Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon, and Tyreke Evans, you get what's coming to you. Unfortunately, it's seemed to have rubbed off on all-world talent Anthony Davis, who's frequently dealing with one niggling little injury or another. Either way, despite a deep and talented roster and a new coaching staff with recent championship bona fides, the Zach-Lowe-dubbed Pellies are fighting to lift themselves off the bottom of the Western Conference standings. If healthy, this team could soar, but will they ever get enough able bodies to even take flight?

The Subplots:

  • Comparison of Key Metrics. The Clippers and Pelicans are both in the NBA's top-5 in team turnover rate. Turnovers will be tough to come by in this game.
  • Schedule. This is game #2 of a relatively light six-game homestand. Next up and beginning with a Sunday matinee, the Clippers play back-to-back home tilts against two playoff borderliners, Minnesota and Portland.
  • Rotation games. Wes Johnson has made back-to-back starts, one good, the other not so good. Doc Rivers thus far refuses to settle on a permanent starting small forward, which, in light of the team's rough start, seems wise. What's unwise has been nearly every other rotation decision Doc has made. If you're looking for further discussion, you can find it in just about every other article on this site.
  • MVP Update. Until space aliens come and reclaim Stephen Curry and Russell Westbrook, every other player in the NBA may just be playing for third place, but Blake Griffin sure isn't taking on the challenge lying down. He's averaging 25/8/4 on 55% shooting, and his 28.77 PER is 4th in the league, one spot ahead of another celestial figure, LeBron James.
  • The Brow on D. Disclaimer: Anthony Davis is an AMAZING player. But shouldn't more of us be questioning why he can't drag the Pelicans to a higher defensive status? New Orleans, even after poaching heralded defensive guru Darren Erman from Golden State, sits 29th overall in efficiency. With Davis on the floor, they allow 104.8 points per 100 possessions, which would make them a sparkling 24th, just behind the Clippers. Last year that number was 103.3, better, but hardly exemplary, and an atrocious 107.2 on the road. Davis' counting stats are eye-popping, as are many of his individual plays, but are they somewhat empty? Too many people rank him among the league's elite defenders, but elite defending big men can and should cover for the flaws of even mediocre supporting casts. With solid perimeter defenders and defensive big men like Asik and Alexis Ajinca typically backing him up, New Orleans' overall roster of defenders rank better than mediocre, which is why we should expect for better results from the Pellies' young star.
  • 3-point shooting. The Clippers rank as below average in 3-point shots classified as either open or wide open. Last year, they were in the league's top-10. Even considering Matt Barnes' reasonably effective deep shooting last year, replacing many of his minutes with Wes Johnson and Paul Pierce should have done no worse than maintaining the team's outside proficiency. The Clippers will get better. It would be nice if they could do it soon.
  • For the Pelicans' point of view, head over to The Bird Writes.
  • The rest. In the entire 2014-2015 season, the Clippers lost four games to below .500 teams. They've already lost three such games this year, and it's not even December yet... Wednesday's loss snapped a 13-game winning streak against the Jazz... The Clippers' last home loss to New Orleans was in November 2012, when the Pellies were the Hornets and Austin Rivers was still considered a big part of their future.