Pelicans drill Clippers at home for second time this season
Just when you were ready to bury the chances of the New Orleans Pelicans to even sniff the 10th and final play-in spot in the Western Conference for the NBA playoffs, the home team up and beat one of the best teams in the league.
How can you figure it?
The Pelicans thrashed the Clippers 120-103 Monday night at Smoothie King Center.
Did the Los Angeles Clippers take the Pelicans lightly?
That should not be the case, considering the Pelicans beat the Clippers previously this season in New Orleans, 135-115 on March 14, and considering the fact that the Clippers are fighting for the top spot in the Western Conference.
Of course, there was no Kawhi Leonard, who was out with a foot injury, and you cannot take that likely. Yes, Serge Ibaka did not play.
Still, injuries are part of the equation as New Orleans continues to operate without Josh Hart and Nickeil Alexander-Walker and the Pelicans were also missing starting center Steven Adams. James Johnson did not play, either.
What you had to like was the great balance the Pelicans had.
For once, they did not have to rely solely on Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram.
Williamson took just 11 shots and scored 23 points. Ingram took just 13 shots and had 17 points.
Lonzo Ball was outstanding with 18 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and two steals.
Eric Bledsoe was solid with 18 points. Billy Hernangomez had 12 points and 10 rebounds. Wenyen Gabriel hit double figures for the first time with 10 points.
The bench cleared and starters got to rest and laugh a bit.
The Pelicans jumped out to a 33-20 lead after one quarter and kept the pedal to the metal all night long. It was fun to watch.
The Pelicans shot 53.7 percent from the field.
More impressively, New Orleans shot 51.7 percent from the field (15-of-29), way above normal. The Pelicans controlled points in the paint 50-34.
Meanwhile, the Pelicans held the Clippers to just 40 percent shooting from the field and 31 percent from three-point range.
Late in the game, with under five minutes left and with a huge lead, Williamson was called for an offensive foul for a charge into DeMarcus Cousins.
Despite the game being way out of hand, Stan Van Gundy challenged the call to benefit his team and his young star.
It paid off as the call was overturned, giving Zion the basket. Williamson never stopped competing and Van Gundy appreciated it.
At 27-34 and with 11 games remaining, the Pelicans moved within four games of Golden State for the tenth spot. New Orleans faces a tough task at Denver Wednesday night. Then, it is on to Oklahoma City and Minnesota.
New Orleans needs at least eight wins in the final 11 games to have a shot at reaching the 10th in the West.
That is not likely but with a performance like the one we saw Monday night, missing several pieces, anything is possible.
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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…