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Clippers start fast but peter out in 94-81 defeat

That didn’t go according to plan.

Los Angeles Clippers v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

What should have been a make-good game after a dispiriting loss in Memphis was anything but, as the Clippers fell 94-81 to the New Orleans Pelicans, who were 2-14 entering the night’s matchup. It was the team’s second-lowest point total of the season, both of which have unsurprisingly come in losses.

Paul George led the team with 19 points, one of four Clippers in double figures. However, Jonas Valančiūnas had 26 to lead all scorers as New Orleans matched L.A. with four double-digit outputs of its own.

The Clippers have struggled with slow starts for much of the season. But with Nicolas Batum healthy and the preferred starting lineup back in place, the team looked rejuvenated early on. George nailed a short jumper to start things off, Batum had a block at the rim on the ensuing possession, and the Clippers were off and rolling.

Eric Bledsoe had some life against his former team, despite heavy boos from the Pelicans fans every time he touched the ball. He popped off for five quick points and two steals in the opening period.

The Clippers had two separate double-digit scoring runs to build a 20-point lead right after the start of the second quarter, at 36-16. The only thing that went wrong was Ivica Zubac getting clocked in the face and having to leave briefly with a bloody nose.

Unfortunately, the good vibes didn’t last. L.A.’s paint defense fell apart, and Kira Lewis Jr. got loose to the tune of nine second-quarter points, his blistering speed a tough match for the road-weary Clips. New Orleans was able to narrow the gap to 12 by halftime.

The flow of the game worsened from there. Jonas Valančiūnas found his stroke from three-point range, which cleared up some space in the paint, and the other Pelicans took advantage of the driving lanes. They shot 6-of-10 at the rim in the third, winning the frame 29-14 to take a three-point lead of their own heading into the fourth.

While New Orleans gained steam as the game went on, the Clippers went in the opposite direction. They shot 12-of-22 in the first quarter, and then 22-of-68 (32.4 percent) during the next three periods. The blame was spread around equally, as Bledsoe (3-of-10), Reggie Jackson (2-of-11), George (8-of-26), and Luke Kennard (2-of-12) all had miserable shooting nights.

One possession in the third quarter neatly summed up the team’s scoring woes. The Clippers were trailing by one and didn’t find the bottom of the net despite getting three offensive rebounds; George missed three shots and Terance Mann one. That was the closest the Clippers would get the rest of the way.

The Clippers are now 0-2 on back-to-backs this season and looked especially worn out on this one with the added travel. The reinforcements can’t come soon enough.