Some may argue one game to determine one team’s entire post-season — whether it’d be a series against the first-seeded Phoenix Suns or a sweet yet sorrowful vacation at Cancun — might be unfair. Others may say otherwise.
Regardless of what they say, however, it will be this game that will determine the success of the two franchises’ season. All the practices the Clippers had, injuries they suffered, and tens and thousands of minutes played come down to one final game.
And their final shot at playoff qualification.
When: Friday, April 15 at 7 p.m. PT
Where: Crypto.com Arena, Los Angeles, CA
How to watch/listen: TNT
Opposing perspective: The Bird Writes
Spread: Clippers -4, Pelicans +4
Projected Starting Lineups
Clippers: Reggie Jackson, Norman Powell, Marcus Morris Sr., Nicolas Batum, Ivica Zubac
Pelicans: Herb Jones, CJ McCollum, Brandon Ingram, Jaxson Hayes, Jonas Valančiūnas
Clippers: Luke Kennard — QUESTIONABLE; Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Jason Preston, Jay Scrubb — OUT
Pelicans: Kira Lewis Jr., Zion Williamson — OUT
On their way stand the mighty Pelicans, fresh off a 113-103 win against the Spurs.
Unfortunately for the Clips, the Clippers have not played their best basketball when matched up against the Pelicans this season. Averaging a reduced 98.2 points, the team struggled to find the bottom of the net: they shot 43.5 percent from the field and a lower 35.8 percent from three.
Perhaps a bigger concern that troubled the Clippers is in the paint. Against a stocky Jonas Valančiūnas and bouncy players like Jaxson Hayes and Larry Nance Jr., L.A.’s frontcourt was held down to just 41.2 rebounds per contest — that’s around 3 less than their season average.
In response, what the Clippers could have done is come out with Paul George at the team’s forefront. Despite sitting out most of the season due to an elbow injury, the seven-time All-Star has picked up right where he left off (he finished with 34 points, 5 assists, and 7 rebounds against the Timberwolves last game).
He can be the team’s main scorer, putting up points from all over the hardwood. Just as important will be his ability to control the pace of the game: he should use his knack at getting to the free-throw line or finding open shooters or cutters to tilt the game to L.A.’s side.
George, however, was removed from the roster last minute as he entered the NBA health and safety protocols. He will not suit up tonight. The team, in turn, will step up from their last performance, should they want to secure tickets for the Playoffs.
Reggie Jackson had five turnovers last game and missed a crucial layup nearing the final buzzer. He and his last-minute nonperformance aren’t the only things to point fingers at, though.
Norman Powell should look to use this three-point shot more often (he averages 41.9 percent from long-range) and be the main scorer for this team. Marcus Morris Sr. needs to be a bigger threat on the offensive end, not giving up open looks and using his isolation game to the team’s advantage. And Ivica Zubac staying in the game and not fouling out will be critical to the team’s victory, especially against Valančiūnas and the Pelicans.
The ending of the 2021-22 Clippers is yet to be carved in stone. And the chisel is up for grabs as the Clippers look to edge the Pelicans in a 48-minute duel.
This post will serve as the game thread. Enjoy the game, and comment below.