Pelicans miss chance to clinch playoff spot with loss at Clippers
With the loss by suddenly hapless Los Angeles Lakers earlier Sunday to Denver, the New Orleans Pelicans had a chance to clinch a play-in spot in the Western Conference playoffs in Los Angeles against the Clippers.
Despite the magnitude of the game, the Pelicans laid an egg.
Perhaps it was due.
The hope was that it was not the shape of things to come and that future opponents will not utilize the playbook the Clippers employed Sunday night because it worked to perfection as the Clippers dominated New Orleans on both ends of the floor in a 119-100 victory.
New Orleans struggled to get any open looks.
The Clippers got all the open looks they wanted.
It was a lethal combination.
The Clippers were simply incredible in the opening quarter, making all eight of their 3-point attempts to take a 37-31 lead with 10 assists on 14 made field goals.
Paul George continuously broke down the Pelicans defense to create wide open 3-point looks or easy shots inside.
The second quarter was a disaster for New Orleans.
The Pelicans could not solve any defensive looks the Clippers gave them, scoring just 13 points in the quarter, and New Orleans could not stop Los Angeles on the offensive end, allowing 29 more points and it was 66-44 at the half.
With virtually every shot contested, New Orleans shot just 35 percent from the field and had nine turnovers while the Clippers shot 54 percent from the field and blistered the nets to the tune of 67 percent (12 of 19) from 3-point range.
Brandon Ingram scored just three points on 1 of 6 shooting and he committed four turnovers. Jonas Valanciunas got just four shots and three of those were off offensive rebounds and he was held to six points.
Brought off the bench to provide perimeter shooting, Devonte Graham and Trey Murphy III each went 0 for 3 from 3-point range.
To say that nothing went right in the half would be accurate, perhaps even an understatement.
The second half was an afterthought.
The Pelicans competed better but never came close to making a game of it.
The Clippers scored 152 points in their previous win against Milwaukee.
They stayed hot Sunday night.
The Clippers made 21 shots from 3-point range, outscoring New Orleans 63-27 from beyond the arc.
There is your game.
Eight different Los Angeles players made 3-pointers.
Ingram finished with 15 points but had a poor game, including six turnovers. He was never a factor.
Valanciunas was taken out in the third quarter and did not play again, only logging 22 minutes. He was never a factor with eight points and nine rebounds.
CJ McCollum had 18 points but was just 7 of 18 from the field.
Herb Jones did a solid job with 13 points and eight rebounds.
The Clippers are deep and versatile.
As the Pelicans have been without Zion Williamson all season long, the Clippers have been without Kawhi Leonard all season as well.
The Spurs easily defeated Portland to pull within a game of New Orleans for the ninth spot. The lead over the Lakers remained three games.
The Lakers played New Orleans very physical on the defensive end and sagged off non-shooters to concentrate on doubling down on Valanciunas and using length, physicality and double teams to slow CJ McCollum and Ingram.
New Orleans was seemingly chasing wide open shooters all night long.
The scheme failed and the execution and effort surely failed.
The road trip concludes Tuesday at Sacramento in what becomes a virtual must-win game.
Prior to the road trip, the goal was clearly to win three of four games and that can be accomplished with a win over the Kings, who are a poor team at 29-49. Sacramento is missing the playoffs for an NBA record 16th straight season.
New Orleans needs to flush this performance immediately and hit the drawing board on how to deal with defenses certainly set to mirror what both Los Angeles teams threw at them.
The difference is that the Clippers are simply better than the Lakers.
The Pelicans need to be better in Sacramento and the rest of the way in their final four games.
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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…