After a comeback attempt, the Clippers are unable to hold onto their fourth quarter lead in a 105-101 loss to end their season.
Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum started the game aggressively for the Pelicans. Ingram who started 8-for-9, had 16 of his team’s 30 first quarter points.
The Clippers were also unable to contain Larry Nance Jr’s athleticism, who scored eight early points off the bench in the first half. He finished the game tonight with 14 points and 16 rebounds.
Reggie Jackson, on the other hand, continued a trend this season of holding down the fort as the number one option of a depleted Clippers team. In the absence of Paul George, Jackson, at times, was the sole offensive engine for Los Angeles.
Both teams, in the first half, shot poorly from three, with 12.5% and 19% shooting by the Pelicans and the Clippers, respectively. The Pelicans, however, were able to compensate for that with a stronger paint presence. Tallying 34 points in the restricted area and 21 defensive rebounds, the New Orleans bigs were simply undeniable.
The Clippers also shot just 6-for-11 from the free throw line, in the first half. Despite that, Los Angeles stayed within striking distance, cutting the deficit to just 10 points, as they trailed 56-46 entering halftime.
A more free-flowing offense, a stauncher defense, and a quick 7-0 run to begin the second half cut that deficit to just three points. Whether it was a halftime break to calm the nerves, revitalized vigor on the defensive end, or some in-game adjustments from the “Bill Belichick of basketball” (yeah, Bill Simmons, I said it), the Clippers found ways to make the game interesting early in the second half. They rode that defense, and some Reggie Jackson magic, to retake the lead for the first time since it was 8-6 in the first quarter.
The Clippers found success making things difficult for CJ McCollum, in particular. With Nicolas Batum and Robert Covington drawing the majority of the McCollum assignments during their third quarter run, the pair of defensive-minded forwards showcased the extent of their versatility.
As it has been all season, however, rebounding woes continued to haunt the Clippers. Led by Nance Jr., the Pelicans grabbed 54 rebounds to the Clippers 45, including a number of extra shots in the most crucial moments of the game.
Between Jackson and Marcus Morris Sr. on the offensive end, and Batum on the defensive end, the Clippers did what they have done all season: embody a “Next Man Up” mentality and make up the production in the aggregate. At the end of the game, however, the absence of Paul George and Luke Kennard were felt, in particular.
The Pelicans responded with an 14-3 run to tie the game, with 7:30 left in the game. And after some more Jackson and Morris Sr. heroics, another Pelicans offensive rebound and corner three tied the game again, about two and a half minutes after that.
Some missed free throws in the waning moments of crunch time, also, gave the Pelicans enough breathing room to finish the game. It was a frustrating end to the game, and the season, for the Clippers.
As they have continued to do all season, however, the Clippers refused to give up. At the end of the season — one that the Clippers refused to let injuries define and dictate — a couple of ill-timed absences ended up putting the nail to an otherwise impressive season. And as a Clippers fan, myself, I have enjoyed every single moment of it. This team continued to compete, no matter who was on the floor or who was in front of them. The season may be over, but this team is here to stay. And Clips Nation, truly, could not be more proud of them.