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Clippers Vs. Pelicans Preview: First Away Game of the Season Against Highest Scoring Team in NBA

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The Clippers face a tall test in New Orleans as they travel to face Anthony Davis and the highest ranked offense in the league.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Los Angeles Clippers Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Game Information:

Where: Smoothie King Center, New Orleans, Louisiana

When: 5:00 PM PT

How to Watch: Fox Sports West

Projected Starting Lineups:

Clippers: Patrick Beverley, Avery Bradley, Tobias Harris, Danilo Gallinari, Marcin Gortat

Pelicans: Elfrid Payton, E’Twuan Moore, Jrue Holiday, Nikola Mirotic, Anthony Davis

Injuries:

Clippers: None reported

Pelicans: None reported

The Big Picture:

The Clippers are on a two game win streak heading into their first road game. Coming off wins against shorthanded Western Conference foes, the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets, L.A. faces their toughest test of the season in the Pelicans.

The Clippers are getting big-time contributions from their starting forwards, as Tobias Harris and Danilo Gallinari are both averaging over 20 points and seven rebounds a game. These two were expected to carry a big scoring load this season, and their coming out strong is a huge plus for the Clippers. In the second unit, rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has played spectacularly thus far, as he has been a positive in plus/minus categories in every game. He has played big minutes late in the last two contests, and L.A. has benefited from his playmaking abilities as well as Lou Williams’ in the final frame.

The starting backcourt of Avery Bradley and Patrick Beverley has yet to flourish, as both rank in the bottom three in scoring average and player efficiency rating on the team. While this backcourt is strong defensively, they need to start showing some spark offensively, as the Clippers are shooting the ball at a low clip through three games.

The Clippers currently rank in the bottom four in three point percentage (30.4%), 21st in field goal percentage (43.4%) and 24th in points per game (107). They shot 20 percent from three Sunday night against the Rockets, but were saved by a franchise record 26-for-26 showing at the free-throw line. The Clippers need to get these numbers up moving forward if they want to contend in the brutal Western Conference. Look for their shooting to hopefully improve come Tuesday night.

The Antagonist:

Through the first week of the season, there’s no dispute that the New Orleans Pelicans boast the best offense in the NBA. They lead the league in points per game, assists per game, and field goal percentage. They are second in three-point percentage, second in rebounds per game, and are the leaders in plus/minus. They have won both of their games by a combined 39 points, including beating the Rockets by 19 in Houston.

The Pels are surprisingly being led in scoring thus far by Nikola Mitotic, who is averaging 33 points and 9.5 rebounds a game through two. He has nailed eleven threes and is shooting 60 percent from the field. Tagging along is a surefire MVP candidate in Anthony Davis, who is averaging 28.5 points and 13 rebounds a game thus far, and Laker-transplant Julius Randle, who’s posted a stat line of 19 points and 11 rebounds a game.

This is a deep team that has already played 14 players and has shooters galore. The Pels will also try to push the pace behind former Orlando Magic guard Elfrid Payton, who put up a triple-double in game one, and former All-Star Jrue Holiday, who is averaging 9 assists already. Look for bench scorers Ian Clark, Solomon Hill and Darius Miller to potentially contribute and bring high energy defense and shooting ability as well. This will be an up-and-down affair as the Pels have allowed both the Rockets and lowly Kings to score big numbers, and through two games are letting up 120.5 points a game.

An interesting wrinkle to this matchup is the fact that NOLA and L.A. were trade partners only a week ago when the Clips shipped Wesley Johnson to the Pels for Alexis Ajinca.

What to watch for:

  • Seriously, shooting better is imperative: The Nuggets are looking like real contenders so far through three games with a 3-0 record. The frustrating aspect of that is the Clippers were up in the fourth quarter against them and went cold to lose by nine. This started a lack of shooting that the Clips have been unable to shake thus far. Luckily, the defense has stepped up, as has the interior play of Boban Marjanovic and Montrezl Harrell. Tonight will be the toughest test the Clips have faced thus far and having a good shooting night will keep them in the game. If the Pels continue their hot play and L.A. can’t shoot a high clip, they will be in deep trouble.
  • Doc’s late-game lineups: There are pros and cons to being a deep team. While guys like Milos Teodosic, Tyrone Wallace, and Jerome Robinson are seeing the negative aspects of it, the pros mean that lineup experimentation is flexible. Finding the right five to finish games is an important aspect of an NBA coach’s arsenal, and Sunday night, the Clips closed out a tough game with a playmaking five. SGA, Lou, Harris, Gallo and Trez finished out the game, and were effective in both guarding the perimeter against the Rockets and scoring well when it counted. Harrell was especially impressive, scoring 17 points and hauling in 10 boards. In the game against the Nuggets, Doc opted to go with the starting backcourt, who then provided a negative impact and let the game get away. An ending lineup of SGA, Lou and Tobias allows for playmaking, shooting and defense to all be present at once. Expect to see those three on the court more late, in the future.