For the first time since the end of last month, the Clippers had two days off between games. Maybe it was because of that, or maybe it was pure coincidence, but in New Orleans, the team looked rusty.
The Clippers were down three starters as well as Luke Kennard, but they’ve generally had enough to get the job done, especially against teams lower in the standings. These Pelicans, however, seem to pose a particular challenge. After embarrassing the Clippers back in March, New Orleans once again delivered the first punch with a 24-4 run in the first quarter. The Clippers never regained the lead after the opening period in the 120-103 loss.
The team was supremely cold from the field to start, shooting 28 percent from the floor in the first quarter, including 2-of-12 on threes. The Pelicans only shot 50 percent, but combined with eight trips to the foul line, were able to build a double-digit lead. Zion Williamson dropped 11 points and attacked the rim mercilessly, even with Ivica Zubac in the middle.
L.A. narrowed the gap to six points in the second, thanks to smooth paint scoring from former Pelican DeMarcus Cousins and dynamic driving from Terance Mann. The Clippers still couldn’t cash from distance, and then proceeded to close the half as bad as possible, conceding eight points in the final 66 seconds to fall behind by 14. There was also a brief scare when Paul George came up gimpy on his right leg after going for a rebound, but he remained in the game and appeared to be moving fine afterwards.
The Clippers finally found their shot in the third quarter, sinking six threes in the period, but then they got sloppy. They had nine turnovers coming out of halftime, literally giving away any opportunity they had to get back into the game. Those nine turnovers led to 13 points for the opposition, and the lead ballooned all the way to 25 in the fourth quarter.
It was a bad performance all around, with no real silver linings. George, who had scored 30 points in seven of eight games, only had nine. Collectively, the group shot 14-of-15 from distance, and they had 18 turnovers to 19 assists. A forgettable performance, and one that needs to be wiped away before Phoenix on Wednesday.