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Preview: Clippers head to the Big Easy to take on Pelicans

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The Clips will look to take down the Pels’ vaunted big man duo on the second half of a tough back-to-back.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Picture

Needless to say, things have gone south for the Clippers since their 4-0 start. The losses have been piling up of late, thanks in no small part to (surprise, surprise!) a rash of injuries to key players. Danilo Gallinari has a hip problem, Patrick Beverley is battling a sore right knee and Austin Rivers is playing on a bum ankle. Obviously, Milos Teodosic is still sidelined with his foot issue.

As a result, the Clips have been super thin on the wing and in the backcourt. Sindarius Thornwell was thrust into a spot-start last night in order to deal with Russell Westbrook and the Thunder.

Obviously, it’s tough to win games in this league if you’re missing one key player, let alone a handful of them. The timing isn’t ideal, either, considering the Clips have just entered a road-heavy portion of the schedule. LAC will head home to take on the 76ers following this game, but after that the club will embark on another five-game road swing. The opponents on that road trip don’t look particularly daunting on paper (corpse of the Cavs, Hornets, Knicks, Hawks and Kings), though, which should help the Clippers keep their heads above water.

The Clippers fought valiantly on Friday night in Oklahoma City, but wound up falling 120-111. LAC was led by Lou Williams, who stepped up in a big way with the guard rotation severely shorthanded. Williams finished with 35 points on 13-22 shooting from the floor, including 6-12 from three-point range.

Assuming they’re shorthanded again in New Orleans, the Clips are going to need another big offensive game from their sixth man. LAC’s five starters combined to score just 58 points against OKC. The Thunder’s “big 3” of Carmelo Anthony, Paul George and Russell Westbrook, meanwhile, scored a combined 78 points alone. Two games ago, the Pelicans’ dynamic duo of Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins combined to score 69 points, which is, in fact, nice.

The Opponent

The Pelicans got off to a forgettable 3-5 start, but they’ve quietly won three of their last four games overall. New Orleans is something of an outlier in the modern NBA. Rather than loading up on wings and joining the smallball revolution, general manager Dell Demps went a different route with his roster construction.

The Pels are unique in that they boast a couple of All-NBA big men plenty capable of impacting the game on both ends of the floor. Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins are two of the most well-rounded seven-footers in the game today, and they just so happen to be on the same team these days.

While the win-loss results haven’t quite been there yet, the Pelicans are still a matchup nightmare for most teams. Davis is averaging 27.5 points, 12.3 rebounds and 2.1 blocks. He’s also shooting nearly 56 percent from the floor and better than 39 percent from long distance.

Not to be outdone, Cousins is going for 28.2 points, 13.8 boards and 1.8 blocks a night. His shooting percentages aren’t as impressive as Davis’, but he has shot at least 35 percent from three-point range in each of the last two seasons. He’s much more than just a bull in the post.

Davis and Cousins eat up so much of the Pelicans’ usage - they combine to attempt nearly 40 shots a game - that there aren’t a ton of offensive opportunities for their teammates. Jrue Holiday is the de facto third wheel, but every now and again he’ll step up and remind you he’s there. In fact, Holiday erupted for a season-high 34 points in the Pelicans’ last game, which was a 122-118 loss in Toronto. If you don’t pay attention to Holiday, he’s plenty capable of killing you, too.

Unlike the Clippers, who have been forced to run a pretty expansive rotation, head coach Alvin Gentry leans extra heavily on his starters. Without Rajon Rondo in the lineup, New Orleans is essentially running an eight- or nine-man rotation. Just eight Pels saw time in the aforementioned Raptors game, with Davis, Cousins and Holiday logging at least 38 minutes apiece. If the game is close, Gentry is sticking with his big guns.

The Fancy Table

Tidbits

  • There are 11 players in the league this season averaging a points-rebounds double-double. Three of them (Davis, Cousins, DeAndre Jordan) are playing in this game tonight. Blake Griffin, meanwhile, is grabbing 8.5 boards per game.
  • Jordan (2nd), Cousins (3rd) and Davis (5th) each rank among the top-five per-game rebounders on the season, as well.
  • While the Pels have a couple of bangers, the team actually takes the 10th-most three-pointers of any team in the league (31.1). Unfortunately, they rank a dismal 25th in 3P% (33.8).
  • Lou Williams is averaging 16.6 points per game this season, which is tops among all players that have come off the bench in every game. The LakersJordan Clarkson ranks second with an average of 15.3 PPG.
  • Griffin is the only Clipper averaging more than 15 points per game. Last season, LAC had three such players (Griffin, Chris Paul, JJ Redick).
  • The Clippers are 7-3 against the Pelicans over the last three seasons.
  • The Pelicans have struggled against good teams while feasting on the dregs of the league. They’re 0-6 against teams above .500, and the inverse against teams south of the .500 mark.
  • Small sample size alert, but the Clippers held Anthony Davis to averages of 20.5 points and 5.0 rebounds per game in two meetings a season ago. DeAndre Jordan averaged 15.7 boards per game in three meetings with the Pels last season...
  • ...it’s also probably worth noting that all three games between these clubs last season came before Cousins was acquired by the Pels in February.
  • Speaking of Boogie, he came close to averaging a triple-double in his two games against LAC last season (31.5 PPG, 12 RPG, 7 APG).
  • The Clippers’ new uniforms look great. If you disagree, you are objectively wrong.