It is possible to qualify for the playoffs with only 36 wins! The Pelicans took full advantage of the “play-in” system to qualify after their victory against the Spurs, then tonight on the Clippers court, which, as we remember, had to do without Paul George. Despite the absence of the latter, this part was indecisive until the end and could have gone the other way around.
It only took a few seconds of gameplay to realize that one player was more on a mission than the others: Brandon Ingram. The elegant Pelicans winger quickly found his comfort zone in mid-range without any opposing player managing to disturb his gestures. At twelve minutes he already had 14 points with 7/8 shots and his team was leading quite calmly (22-30).
The Clippers struggled to hang on to the scoreboard in the next few minutes, due to activity from the opposite bench, in particular a furious Larry Nance Jr. below the circle, almost double-double from halftime. By ditching the 3-point shot altogether but scoring with ease in or near the key, the New Orleans team offered itself its most substantial lead: +16 (29-45).
Ingram-Nance, former Lakers make a difference
Clumsy thus far, Reggie Jackson also began lining up mid-range jumpers to help Marcus Morris, the Clippers’ first threat, while Norman Powell struggled to make Paul George forget. By better challenging Brandon Ingram’s shots, the Clippers, despite his clumsiness (21/4 from distance at halftime…), thus finished with a better score (46-56).
This trend was spectacularly confirmed in a third quarter of total dominance by the locals. The Californians seriously muzzled defensively – with a really huge Nicolas Batum in this sector – the two strong men in front (Ingram and McCollum), and the entire Pels attack, to turn in transition. Robert Covington or Norman Powell took advantage of it while Marcus Morris continued with his big evening, and Reggie Jackson confirmed his rise to power by hurting CJ McCollum defensively. Los Angeles thus overcame an incredible 25-2 to turn the game around and lead by ten points before the fourth quarter (84-74).
End of applause for the Pelicans? Not at all. CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram found pace and skill to lead NOLA 14-1 to even (88-88). With an inspired Trey Murphy from afar, the Pelicans even took a three-possession lead (94-101) with two minutes remaining. The Clippers still found a way to respond to regain possession before letting the game be decided on free throws.
There, the two teams shone a lot with their clumsiness. With 20 seconds remaining and just three points to go, Larry Nance Jr. missed two in a row and then Norman Powell settled for half. On the next possession, the Clippers took out two Brandon Ingrams that found Jonas Valanciunas, alone under the circle, to record the final basket synonymous with classification.
WHAT TO REMEMBER
– Tyronn Lue’s “Little Ball”. His choice to do without Ivica Zubac, despite his offensive rebounding activity, after his time in the locker room changed the course of the game. By lining up Robert Covington instead of the center, the Clippers coach offered himself as a more mobile five capable of “turning on” everything. This adjustment paid off as it coincided with the huge third quarter of the Clippers (38-18) against the Pelicans who did not decide to serve Jonas Valanciunas in the position, despite favorable duels in size. He, too, finally returned to his bench to appreciate Larry Nance Jr. getting the job done.
– Willie Green Speech. While his team was still in trouble at the start of the fourth quarter, the Pelicans coach had strong, passionate words for his players during a timeout. ” It is for this kind of moment that we play, we work hard for that. We will not let go. You have to fight, you have to fight! “, he repeated with intensity. His message came when the Pelicans came back to score in minutes.
✅ Brandon Ingram. The winger started his game with 18 points on 9/10 shooting before experiencing a big drop in speed in the third quarter. Taken two and very well held by Nicolás Batum, however he recovered in the final period passing his defender several times to make a dunk. Result: a very solid and complete game without any triple attempts.
✅ Larry Nance Jr.. First double-double of the season and go double-double of the substitute who boosted the racket of the Pelicans to compensate for the non-game of Jonas Valanciunas. Despite two missed free throws late, he was decisive in the fourth quarter with his rebounding activity.
✅ trey murphy iii. Without making much noise, the rookie finished with the most positive impact on the scoreboard of the game, by far. His four prize baskets delivered after the break, most of the time while he was wide open, did the Pelicans a lot of good.
✅ Reggie Jackson and Marcus Morris. While the other members of the Clippers five were less challenged or inspired on offense, both men held house in the absence of Paul George. However, they suffered a lot behind the 3-point line (6/20 between them…).
⛔ Free kick skill. Seeing two teams finish with fewer than 10 winning baskets has become rare in today’s league. Watch two teams shoot less than 65% from free throws, with 12 points lost on each side, even more.
Scissors (42-40) : vacation, like your neighbors.
Pelicans (36-46) : Game 1 against the Suns, Sunday.