Pelicans crushed by Clippers in embarrassing second game in bubble
If it was a horse race, the quarter horse was up against the thoroughbred. The quarter horse spit the bit early, before a quarter was even played.
The Los Angeles Clippers and New Orleans Pelicans were each coming off of debilitating losses.
Each team had lost its first game by two points. Each team had a chance to win the game on a final shot. Neither did.
Who would respond well and who would not?
The answer came swiftly at Orlando Saturday. The result was a 126-103 beatdown which Los Angeles administered to New Orleans.
One team looked like it wanted to all in. The other looked like it desperately wanted to burst the bubble. I could not resist!
The Clippers came out scalding hot from the field, hitting their first six 3-pointers and finished the first quarter 9-of-13 from 3-point range. The nine 3-pointers in a quarter tied a season high for Los Angeles. Paul George and Kawhi Leonard each had nine points. New Orleans committed seven turnovers in the quarter as the Clippers took a 37-25 lead.
It got worse in the second quarter.
Los Angeles scored 40 points, New Orleans could not score and the blowout was on as the Clippers took a 77-45 lead by halftime.
Los Angeles finished the half 16-of-24 (67%) from 3-point range in the half, narrowly missing tying a league record for 3-pointers in a half.
How bad were the Pelicans?
The five starters were a +/- 115 combined in the half. New Orleans added 12 turnovers to the carnage. The Clippers scored 24 points off of those turnovers.
The second half was simply an exercise of trying to get to the finish line for both teams, nothing more.
Yes, the Clippers are an elite team, better than New Orleans. Yes, the Clippers were determined to overcome the tough loss to the Lakers.
Still, there was no excuse for the listless, pathetic effort the Pelicans put forth.
Keep in mind that the Clippers were without Lou Williams against the Pelicans and his 18.7 points per game. Keep in mind that Los Angeles played without Montrezl Harrell and his 18.6 points per game. That is 37.3 points per game gone. It did not matter.
Keep in mind that Utah, who got whipped by Oklahoma City Saturday, played without Bojan Bogdanovic against New Orleans and his 20.2 points per game.
This was set up for the Pelicans. Instead, it was a set up for failure and false expectations.
The thought of three scrimmage wins is a distant memory. Where is that team?
As I cautioned then, don’t get too excited about games that do not count. Does anyone remember that the Pelicans were 5-0 in the preseason?
Alvin Gentry deserves criticism, make that intense criticism for his team’s effort. The Pelicans were not ready to play, in any sense, and it showed.
Of course, players play and very few Pelicans showed up to play in this one.
Zion Williamson played just 14 minutes. He had seven points, five rebounds and three turnovers. He did not play a second in the fourth quarter.
If you want to find a bright spot, credit Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Jaxson Hayes. Both were very active in the fourth quarter, in garbage time.
After leading the team in scoring in the three scrimmage games, Alexander-Walker did not play a second in the loss to Utah and did not enter the game Saturday until the start of the fourth quarter. He finished with 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting, two assists and two steals.
Hayes finished with nine points and eight rebounds.
The Clippers broke a franchise record with 25 made 3-pointers. They were 25-of-47 from 3-point range.
The win was the 939th of the coaching career of Doc Rivers, moving into 11th overall in NBA history as he surpassed the great Red Auerbach.
Next up is Memphis on Monday, the team the Pelicans started the seeding games chasing. Now, they are chasing virtually everyone in “The Bubble.”
We keep hearing from national commentators that the Pelicans are a good team. At times, they are an exciting team with a promising future.
The fact of the matter is that New Orleans is 10 games under .500. Is that a good team?
The good news is that the Pelicans will not face anyone better than the Clippers or Utah the rest of the way. The bad news is that the Pelicans may not be better than many of the other teams remaining on the schedule.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…