The LA Clippers won consecutive games for the first time in 2021, after defeating the New Orleans Pelicans 111-106 at Staples Center on Wednesday.
The Pelicans missed young star Zion Williamson, who was ruled out due to COVID protocols, but a career night from 2nd-year player Nickeil Alexander-Walker helped the road side rally in the 2nd half and give the Clippers a test down the stretch before they ultimately sealed the win.
Ty Lue continued with his standard starting five this season, and the teams traded baskets in the opening quarter. Marcus Morris Sr. had a buzzer beater attempt to end the 1st quarter, but it clanged off the rim and the teams ended it knotted up at 28-28.
They continued to keep it close into the 2nd quarter, before the Clippers went on a run to pull ahead before halftime, eventually pulling away to a 61-43 lead at the break, Paul George leading the way with 21 points. He ended with an impressive 3-pointer at the buzzer off an unconventional in-bounds play from Nicolas Batum.
The Clippers maintained their lead in the 3rd quarter, although the Pelicans chipped away at it, LA starting with an 18-point lead and finishing the stanza with a 12-point edge.
It was more of the same in the 4th quarter, with the Clippers maintaining the upper hand but New Orleans not ready to throw in the towel. Lue tightened up his rotation on the night, giving heavy minutes to Patrick Beverley, who put in arguably his best defensive performance of the season, while the coach ultimately played just nine players in meaningful minutes on the night.
While the Pelicans’ Alexander-Walker poured it on in the 2nd half, scoring 37 points to pace all players, the Clippers stars were again the leaders for their side, with Kawhi Leonard rather quietly notching 28 points with nine assists and George tallying 27 points. In this situation, two players turned out to do more than one.
This was a solid performance from the Clippers, if not totally dominant. Aside from Alexander-Walker and Brandon Ingram each scoring at a good clip, the Pelicans’ key unit were all well down in terms of plus/minus and defensively they just couldn’t hold LA back. For the Clips, I think Beverley has struggled to open up the season, but if he can find some rhythm and get back to playing effective smothering defense, that should help the Clippers in crunch-time situations moving forward, and possibly cover up his shortcomings on offense.
The Clippers are next in action Friday at the Sacramento Kings, for the teams’ first meeting this season.