Pelicans beat Clippers 113-100 to clinch playoff berth
The Clippers were playing out the string of a season that was turned upside down by nonstop injuries.
They even lost two more players to injuries when starting guard Austin Rivers couldn’t go because of right elbow soreness and sixth-man savant Lou Williams couldn’t go because of a sprained right ankle.
So to see the Clippers play yet another game short-handed, a 113-100 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday night at Staples Center, was par for the course.
“They hung in there long enough,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “New Or-leans had just more firepower. But I did like some of the guys. … You know, they are not throwaway games because the guys are learning every day.”
The Clippers were playing only for pride after they were eliminated from the playoff race by Denver on Saturday. But the Pelicans were playing to secure a postseason spot in the topsy-turvy Western Conference, which New Orleans earned with its fourth consecutive victory.
“They are going to be dangerous,” Doc Rivers said. “They have a lot of players who can play.”
With Anthony Davis leading the way with 28 points, six rebounds and five blocks and Nikola Mirotic dropping a double-double with 24 points and 16 rebounds, the Pelicans are currently the fifth seed in the West heading into Wednesday’s season finale with San Antonio, which sits as the sixth seed with the same 47-34 record. Oklahoma City, sitting in seventh, also is 47-34.
The Pelicans sealed their first trip to the playoffs in three years by putting on a show at times, the highlight of the game coming when Rajon Rondo threw a lob off the backboard for a one-handed dunk by Davis that had the fans standing and shaking their heads.
“Rondo is their key guy because he kind of puts everybody in their place, where they are supposed to be offensively,” Doc Rivers said. “Anthony Davis is their key guy. But after that I think Rondo sets their table for them offensively.”
The Clippers had only nine healthy players available, just three of them guards in Tyrone Wallace, C.J. Williams and Sindarius Thornwell.
Thornwell put his best effort forward, scoring a career-high 20 points on nine-for-14 shooting, two for three on three-pointers. His one-handed dunk over DeAndre Liggins late in the fourth quarter had teammates leaping off the bench in amazement.
“I was just being aggressive,” Thornwell said. “It was a moment thing, attacking the rim. My shot was getting blocked all night. I didn’t want my shot to get blocked.”
Backup center Boban Marjanovic, who has become a fan favorite, also gave them something to cheer with 12 points and nine rebounds in only 13 minutes.
Rivers said having C.J. Williams and Wallace play significant minutes is good for their growth. Wallace had 10 points, four rebounds and four assists in 36 minutes, 48 seconds. Williams had 10 points, three rebounds and three assists in 30:23.
“C.J. and Ty, just their minutes, this is important for them,” Rivers said. “That’s what you get out of games like tonight.”
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