Behind Chris Paul's 25 points and 11 assists, the Los Angeles Clippers extended their win streak to nine games with a 114-111 overtime victory over the New Orleans Pelicans Sunday afternoon. J.J. Redick, who had been ablaze over the last several games, struggled to just 11 points on 2-for-10 shooting, including 1-for-6 from beyond-the-arc. Jamal Crawford picked up the slack, though, contributing 21 off-the-bench.
Playing their second consecutive day game, the Clips came out looking a little flat on both ends. The offense wasn't humming along at its usual crisp rate, while they were struggling to keep up with solid ball movement by the Pelicans. Ryan Anderson, starting in place of the injured Anthony Davis, proved to be a handful. The trigger-happy Pels big man came out firing, scoring nine in the first alone on 4-of-6 shooting from the floor. With Griffin sidelined, the Clippers don't really have an ideal candidate to defend Anderson's excellent combination of size and shooting range, and he made them pay early on.
L.A. mounted a bit of a rally to erase a 17-11 deficit to take an 18-17 lead, only to start playing lackluster basketball to close the frame. The Clips finished the first with seven turnovers, including three in the final 1:25. After one ugly quarter, the Pels led 23-19.
The second quarter didn't start much better for the Clippers. New Orleans went on a 11-0 run spanning the quarter break to take a 30-19 lead before consecutive Austin Rivers buckets halted the skid. Cole Aldrich picked up four fouls 4:47, which has to be a record of some sort. He also suffered a nasty cut on his face for his efforts and had to head for the locker room, where he'd get stitches before returning in the fourth quarter. Once DeAndre Jordan came back into the game, though, the game began to turn back around.
It didn't take long for LAC to erase that 11-point deficit. They tied things up at 33-all with a Pablo Prigioni three-ball with about eight minutes to go in the half, forcing an Alvin Gentry timeout. Considering the Pels were rolling with a Jrue Holiday-Norris Cole-Toney Douglas-Luke Babbitt-Alexis Ajinca lineup, a Clipper run was inevitable. From that point, L.A. went on a three-shooting binge.
Wesley Johnson, Jamal Crawford and Chris Paul each hit consecutive triples to give the Clips a 44-36 lead. Meanwhile, the ball movement that had been working so well for the Pelicans in the first period had all but stopped in favor of a lot of isolation offense. L.A. would drill 6-of-11 from three-point range in the second quarter alone while holding the Pels to just 29% shooting from the floor. If the sight of blood doesn't make you squeamish, take a gander at that N.O. shot chart from the second (via NBA.com):
Because it wouldn't be a Clippers game without a technical foul, CP3 picked up a T for complaining just before the break after he GOT a foul call. You know you've got a reputation for complaining too much when you're getting T'd up for calls that actually go your way. Regardless, thanks to better offensive execution and more lively defense, L.A. took a 56-49 lead into the locker room.
It was good to see Chris Paul playing with assertiveness offensively and looking for his own shot. He couldn't buy a bucket in the last game against these guys (just 3-for-18 on New Year's Eve), but went into the half of this game with a game-high 16 points in 16 minutes. He was a tidy 6-for-8 from the floor and hit both of his threes.
New Orleans, particularly Eric Gordon, did a solid job of sticking with Redick throughout the game. Lots of J.J.'s looks weren't nearly as clean as they normally are, and the Pelicans decided that doubling him and leaving Paul Pierce open instead was a sound strategy. It was evident that Gentry said something during halftime about walling-off the three-point line, as the Pels were closing that airspace with a renewed vigor after the break.
Rather than just standing idly in the corner, Luc Mbah a Moute proved to be a useful safety valve for the Clips' offense in the third. The veteran was moving excellently off the ball, and his teammates were able to find him on several occasions for easy layups off of those cuts. LMAM was also strong defensively, helping limit Anderson to 1-for-8 shooting over the final 3+ quarters after his aforementioned hot start.
The Pelicans were hanging around, but the Clippers turned it on at both ends toward the latter stages of the third. LAC players were flying over screens and blowing up whatever New Orleans was trying to run. When the Pels weren't turning it over, virtually all of their shots during this span were well-contested. The turnovers allowed the Clips to get out and run in transition, which is where they're obviously at their very best. A Crawford turnover at the death of the third period was the Clips' first since the turnover-laden first quarter. They tightened things up considerably, and led 84-76 heading into the fourth.
The absence of Anthony Davis leaves New Orleans woefully short of a reliable paint scorer. As a result, DeAndre was able to roam the paint rather than having to worry a whole lot about stopping his man. This effectively neutered Tyreke Evans, whose offensive game is predicated on driving and scoring. He's improved as a shooter this season, but as a defense you'd much rather force him to take jumpers. And that's exactly what the Clippers were able to do. Reke finished a solid 9-of-19 from the floor for 26 points, though he was only 3-of-9 at the rim. DeAndre Jordan was responsible for most of that.
Things got stagnant offensively early in the fourth for the Clippers following a four-point play from Crawford (who else?), and New Orleans went on a 7-0 run to get to within 90-85. With the Pelicans hanging too close for comfort, Doc Rivers decided to put CP3 and D.J. back into the game ahead of the seven-minute mark. A couple of defensive stops, a Wesley Johnson flush off of brilliant ball movement, and a CP3 midrange jumper later, L.A. had quickly restored order at 97-89.
Johnson, who has been maligned by Doc a few times this season for his defensive effort, was all over the place in this one. He was swarming passing lanes and deflecting passes left and right, and was rewarded for his efforts with a game-high five steals.
However, New Orleans just wouldn't die. Jrue Holiday (29 points) caught fire, scoring seven quick points to bring the Pels back to within two at 98-96. The Clips were still able to generate good looks, but they just weren't falling. Crawford missed a corner three, CP3 and J.J. each bricked a midranger and Johnson missed two wide-open threes. A couple of Jordan free throws put Lawler's Law into effect, but an Evans jumper made it 100-98 with three minutes to play.
The teams traded missed opportunities until Dante Cunningham got another wide-open look at a triple from the same spot from which he'd just missed, but missed again badly. Redick gathered the rebound and was promptly fouled with about seven seconds left. Game over, right? Nope! J.J. had his worst offensive game in a while in this one, and actually missed the second foul shot after hitting the first. Up 101-98, the Clips opted to foul New Orleans, but Rivers fouled Holiday on a three-point attempt, which is the nightmare scenario. Jrue hit all three FTs, tying the game at 101. Overtime!
The Clippers should've won this game easily in regulation, but missed every single field goal attempt from the 6:05 mark on in the fourth. New Orleans wasn't exactly lighting-it-up themselves, but did enough to claw back and push the game to an extra session.
Things weren't much easier during the overtime period, but the Clippers were finally able to get a bucket when Johnson found D.J. on a lob (plus the foul) to open the scoring. Cunningham gave the Pels the lead after finally making a three from the spot he'd missed twice previously, but the Clips were able to wrestle it back with a CP3 score on the ensuing possession. A Johnson three-ball with 2:20 left to go gave L.A. the lead for good, and a Paul capped it off with a desperation three of his own on the next trip down for the Clippers.
A bunch of intentional fouls on Jordan, Mbah a Moute and Johnson later, the Pelicans found themselves down 114-111 with about 10 seconds left. The Clippers appeared to try and intentionally foul again on that last possession, but, fortunately, Anderson took and missed a long-two at the buzzer.
It wasn't pretty, but it all counts the same. The Pelicans, shorthanded as they were, fought hard in this game and the Clippers (25-13) were lucky to come out with their ninth straight victory. They'll try and extend the streak to 10 games on Wednesday night when the Miami Heat come to town.