The New Orleans Pelicans officially clinched a playoff berth with a 113-100 win over the L.A. Clippers on Wednesday night. Rookie Sindarius Thornwell scored a career-high 20 points off the bench for the Clippers, while Boban Marjanovic saw extended run and contributed 12 points with 9 boards. Thornwell also completely Blake Griffin’d the hell out of DeAndre Liggins to cap the finest night of his young career. He was excellent defensively and came up with 2 blocks and 2 steals, to boot. Thornwell also played plenty of point guard with the Clips so short-handed and racked up 6 assists.
The Pelicans were led by 28 points from Anthony Davis, while his frontcourt mate Nikola Mirotic chimed in with 24 points and 16 rebounds of his own. Turnovers were essentially the story of the game. New Orleans was extremely careful with the basketball and turned it over just 7 times, while the Clippers finished with 15 giveaways.
The Clippers played hard in this one, which was nice to see given the disappointing effort we saw on Saturday afternoon against the Nuggets. L.A. will wrap up the regular season schedule here on Wednesday night against the Lakers, while the Pels will play an important game at home against San Antonio the same night.
As was the case the last time these teams played, there wasn’t much defense either way early on. The Pelicans started the game hitting 4 of their first 8 shots, including 3 of 5 from long range. The Clippers, for their part, began 6 for 10 to take an early advantage.
I can’t tell you why Anthony Davis doesn’t touch the ball on every New Orleans possession, but the Clips started out defending him fairly well. While LAC was getting shots to go early on, the quality on said shots wasn’t exactly high-percentage. The Clippers subsequently endured an offensive dry spell as New Orleans started to find a rhythm offensively. Back-to-back layups from AD and E’Twaun Moore quickly pushed the Pels to a 26-13 lead.
The Clippers were playing hard defensively, but playing hard can only get you so far when you’re as vastly undermanned as the Clippers are. New Orleans knocked down 5 of their first 11 attempts from deep, while L.A. came up empty on each of their first 4 tries from long range. That’s a good way to fall into an early hole.
DeAndre Jordan played Davis well throughout the first quarter. He probably got away with a foul or two, but holding AD to 8 points on 3-7 shooting over the course of a full quarter still feels like a win. For his part, DJ played the first 12 minutes and contributed 7 points an 7 boards.
Unfortunately, less than 2 minutes after coming into the game Boban appeared to hurt his hand while fouling a driving Rajon Rondo. Because the Clippers aren’t allowed to have nice things, Marjanovic immediately went to the locker room during a timeout. Tobias Harris came back in for Boban.
The Pels’ offense stalled to start the second as the Clips inched closer, so Alvin Gentry wasted no time in getting Davis and Jrue Holiday back on the floor with over 8 minutes to go in the half against a Clipper lineup featuring Harris and Wesley Johnson as the only starters. Point Sindarius Thornwell, baby. Let’s get weird. A Sam Dekker tip-in over the top of Anthony Davis (???) closed the LAC deficit to just 5.
Tobias was playing aggressively without being rewarded by his shots falling. He started just 3 for 9 and missed each of his first couple of attempts from the stripe, to boot. If Tobias’ shots aren’t falling, there aren’t many offensive alternatives for the Clippers with so many guys on the shelf.
Harris then canned a pair of foul shots before a thunderous flush from Montrezl prompted an Alvin Gentry timeout with New Orleans’ advantage down to a point with 5 to play. By this point, the Clips held a 17-10 edge in the second quarter. This was already a much better all-around effort from the Clippers than we saw on Saturday, which is weird considering that game actually had playoff implications.
Thornwell then stripped Holiday on one end before drilling a triple on the ensuing possession to give the Clippers a 2-point lead. After that, all defense ceased. Thornwell blocked Davis a few possessions later, but not before the Clippers started recklessly turning the ball over. The Pels scored on 5 consecutive unanswered possessions to reclaim a 10-point lead heading into the break. That was a fast 12-0 run.
Ian Clark, who was considered doubtful to play just prior to the game, was, in fact, healthy enough to play. He was gutting the Clips, finishing the first half with 13 points on 5-6 shooting, including 3-4 from beyond the arc.
Ty Wallace struggled tremendously in the first half (2-9), so it was nice to see him start the second 24 minutes with a nice driving layup. Unfortunately, the Clips allowed Rajon Rondo and Holiday to get easy buckets on consecutive possessions after that, and Doc called an early timeout with the deficit having swollen to 12.
The timeout didn’t exactly have the desired effect, as Williams and Harris missed jumpers around a turnover by Wallace. Nikola Mirotic and Davis found buckets on the other end to put the Pels up 16 all of a sudden. Wallace got blocked at the rim a few minutes later, which led to a fastbreak and-one opportunity from Moore to give New Orleans a game-high 19-point lead. Another and-one, this one from AD, blew the Clipper deficit up to 22 at 75-53.
Rondo and Anthony Davis then did something. 18-4 run to start the third for the Pels.
After a few more Clipper turnovers and a few more dunks for the Pelicans, Davis was subbed out with 3:34 left and his team up 24. Luckily, Boban was healthy enough to return shortly thereafter so I guess that hand is feeling ok. He promptly picked up an offensive rebound and scored while being hacked.
Anyway, 93-71 after 3.
Boban did a bunch of fun stuff throughout the first half of the fourth as the Pelicans started to kinda blow the lead. A pull-up jumper by Moore and a triple from Mirotic quickly settled things back down and put New Orleans back up 21 with half of the fourth quarter to go.