The Clippers started the second half of the season with a dominating performance against the Warriors, and there was a hope that effort would set the tone for LA going forward.
Alas, those dreams fell apart pretty quickly in New Orleans on the first outing of a three-game road trip. The Clippers laid an egg in the first quarter, and other than a brief reprieve in the second quarter, were thoroughly outclassed by the Pelicans in an 135-115 loss.
The Clippers got off to quite the sloppy start. They had numerous defensive miscues on the opening possessions, leading to open threes for the Pelicans, and then they did themselves no favors on the offensive end, giving the ball away indiscriminately. On two separate occasions, the Clippers turned the ball over on inbounds attempts. New Orleans got 10 shots directly at the rim in the first quarter, making eight of them, and all things considered, the Clippers were lucky to be down by only 12 to end the period.
The second unit plus Paul George finally started to bring some physicality and energy to the game. George provided the scoring, Terance Mann brought the activity, and Ivica Zubac provided the rim protection. LA started the second quarter on a 10-3 run to pull within five, powered by those three.
Mann had two steals, but look at the rim protection from Zubac as Zion Williamson comes barreling at the basket towards him.
We see you, @ivicazubac.— LA Clippers (@LAClippers) March 15, 2021
@FoxSportsWest | #ClipperNation pic.twitter.com/NLkRX8KU9V
Unfortunately, the momentum of the game shifted when Zubac picked up his third foul on what looked like pure verticality. He had to leave the game, and Serge Ibaka had lower back spasms that kept him out after the first quarter, allowing the Pelicans to feast on LA’s small lineup. New Orleans got 10 more shots at the rim in the second, making nine of them this time, and Lonzo Ball’s four first-half 3-pointers helped keep the Pelicans in front by 10, even as the Clippers discovered their offensive groove.
The game got fully away from the Clippers in the second half, as New Orleans started the period on a 9-0 run. The Clippers never got closer than 15 the rest of the way.
Kawhi Leonard had an efficient scoring performance, making 9-of-13 shots for 23 points. Luke Kennard also had a nice stint with the starters in the second quarter, and he actually had a positive plus-minus through the first three quarters, during what could charitably be described as the competitive portion of the game.
But the Clippers lost this one with their defense. They let New Orleans shoot over 65 percent from the field and outrebound the Clippers. It was a bad performance, and one that hopefully won’t carry over against the Mavericks tomorrow.