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Clippers vs. Pelicans preview and game thread: Can LA keep New Orleans down?

The Clippers have an opportunity to build a winning streak against a faltering Pelicans team.

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New Orleans Pelicans v LA Clippers Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

After holding on to defeat the Bulls Sunday, the Clippers got a bit of time to rest and regroup before welcoming the New Orleans Pelicans to Staples Center for Wednesday’s matchup. Their two days off were the most since the gap between the first two games of the season. As a result, on Tuesday the Clippers were able to hold a full practice — not a shootaround or a walkthrough, but an actual practice — for the first time since Dec. 28.

Game Information:

When: Wednesday, Jan. 13 at 7 p.m. PT

Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, California

How to watch/listen: ESPN, Fox Sports Prime Ticket, AM 570 Radio

Streaming: fuboTV, ESPN+

Projected Starting Lineups:

Clippers: Patrick Beverley, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Nicolas Batum, Serge Ibaka

Pelicans: Nickeil-Alexander Walker, JJ Redick, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram, Steven Adams

Injuries:

Clippers: Ivica Zubac (abdominal soreness) — QUESTIONABLE, Jay Scrubb (foot surgery) — OUT

Warriors: Eric Bledsoe (eye irritation), Lonzo Ball (knee tendinopathy), Zion Williamson (health and safety) — OUT

The Big Picture:

The Clippers have been a wonderful offensive team to start the season. They have the best halfcourt offense in the league, per Cleaning the Glass, taking advantage of the spacing afforded by having five shooters in their starting lineup. Where head coach Ty Lue wants the team to improve is by getting out in transition a little more often. Although the team can easily rely on its set offense — as evidenced by the Clippers’ overall efficiency thus far — he thinks his group can benefit from getting some easy baskets on the break. The Clippers finish only 12.4 percent of their possessions in transition, the second-lowest frequency in the NBA.

Another priority for Lue in the team’s most recent practice was their small-ball lineups. The Clippers were limited in their ability to go small before Marcus Morris Sr. returned from his knee injury; their lone attempt was a surprising lineup with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George as the bigs. However, having Morris back gave the Clippers the opportunity to downsize against the Bulls. Not only do those units allow the Clippers to switch 1 to 5, but they create pressure and force turnovers, which can get the team going in the open floor.

“I think that is one of our big emphases today,” Lue said before practice, “going over our small lineup and how we want to play. But I felt we were able to switch a lot more things with Marcus at the five, and offensively we just got to keep working at it. As he gets in shape, I think it is going to be a dangerous lineup for us.”

The Antagonist:

The Pelicans have had a rough go of it recently, losing three straight (relatively) close games before having their last contest postponed when Dallas didn’t have eight available players. They come to L.A. in search of their first win since Jan. 2. During their losing streak, they’ve hemorrhaged 3-pointers (52 total over three contests) and allowed opponents to score 24 points off turnovers per game. That first flaw could prove especially problematic against the Clippers.

Where the Pelicans do is protect the paint. They excel on the glass, rebounding the ball well on both ends of the floor. They also limit shots at the rim and don’t foul frequently either. The problem for New Orleans is that the Clippers don’t get much of their offense in the paint. Although the Clippers are committed to attacking the paint, many of their drives are with the intention of kicking out, not to score.

Notes:

  • Former Clippers JJ Redick and Eric Bledsoe, who were traded for one another once upon a time, will be playing against their former team. Former Clipper Sindarius Thornwell will also be in the building, but it’s unclear if he’ll actually get to play.
  • The Pelicans have had their preferred starting lineup together for every game this season, until this one, with Lonzo Ball missing his first game of the year.
  • The Clippers went 3-1 against New Orleans last season, winning the final three games after losing the first one in Paul George’s team debut.

What are you looking forward to seeing from the Clippers against the Pelicans?