Clippers’ struggles vs. Pelicans may hang-out them in playoffs

The New Orleans Pelicans have been a thorn for the Clippers over the previous couple of years, one of many few groups which have mastered methods of beating them.

Friday evening’s recreation carried extra significance than typical with the Clippers and Pelicans trending towards a first-round playoff showdown. On some degree, the sport might need been much more necessary for a Clippers staff that had misplaced 11 of its final 15 video games towards New Orleans.

The Clippers had been combating from behind many of the recreation and couldn’t overcome Zion Williamson and the Pelicans in a 112-104 defeat.

Williamson completed with 34 factors, seven rebounds and 4 assists to offer the Pelicans their third win over the Clippers this season.

“We simply struggled with containing Zion to a level,” mentioned Paul George, who had 26 factors, six assists and 5 rebounds. “That’s one thing we obtained to determine.”

The Clippers must as a result of they’re on a possible playoff collision course with the Pelicans. The Clippers (42-24), fourth within the Western Convention with 16 video games left, nonetheless maintain a two-game lead over the fifth-place Pelicans (40-26), which might give them home-court benefit within the first spherical in the event that they sq. off because the Nos. 4 and 5 seeds. However the Pelicans maintain the tiebreaker after successful the season collection.

“We’ll welcome any problem,” George mentioned, “any matchup.”

Williamson discovered his groove within the third quarter and the Clippers had been powerless to cease him. He made all seven of his photographs, scoring 16 factors seemingly at will through the quarter.

He completed capturing 14 for 21 from the sector.

“Tonight it was Zion attending to his spots and making photographs,” mentioned Kawhi Leonard, who had 23 factors and 7 rebounds.

The Clippers tried Leonard on Williamson. That didn’t work.

They tried middle Ivica Zubac, reserves P.J. Tucker and Mason Plumlee.

Nothing labored.

However this isn’t new — the Clippers have been overwhelmed by Williamson in every of their three losses to New Orleans.

Williamson has averaged 29 factors on 54.8% capturing within the Pelicans’ three wins. Within the recreation the Clippers received, he had simply 12 factors.

“Zion, I feel down the stretch of all three video games they’ve received this yr, three out of 4, he’s dominated us the final six minutes of the third, like we talked about earlier than the sport, and the entire fourth,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue mentioned. “So, we obtained to concentrate to element and perceive what we wish to do. I perceive that guys wish to play they usually wish to compete and take pleasure in that, however taking place the stretch after we wish to double staff him, we obtained to double staff him like we mentioned.

“And popping out of a timeout, we obtained to ensure we give him a distinct look. He simply obtained too snug. They run five-roll. They run it each single time they usually destroyed us three out of 4 video games with him doing the identical play time and again. And, so, give them credit score. When the sport is on the road, it’s a detailed recreation, he at all times takes over the sport down the stretch.”

Notes

Norman Powell mentioned he injured his decrease left leg when he fell throughout a scrum for a unfastened ball within the fourth quarter. Powell used crutches to get round within the locker room after the sport. “It’s not damaged,” mentioned Powell, who scored 15 factors. “That’s why I got here again into the sport.” … Terance Mann returned to the sport after he limped to the locker room earlier than halftime. … James Harden sat out his second straight recreation due to a strained left shoulder. “He’s feeling higher. He’s simply not there but,” Lue mentioned. … The Clippers’ subsequent recreation is Sunday evening towards the Atlanta Hawks at Crypto.com Area.

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