Paul George’s eight three-pointers power Clippers to rout of Pelicans
In one corner of HP Field House, the New Orleans Pelicans assembled chairs for their huddle out of bounds Saturday evening, where the baseline meets the sideline. Players stood with their backs toward the court, hands on their hips, dour faces and eyes pointed downward.
Ninety-four feet and seemingly a world away were the Clippers, who looked as though they had spent the previous two hours enjoying rides at the Magic Kingdom and were now swapping stories.
Clippers star Kawhi Leonard crossed his arms while sitting in his assigned seat, smiling as the teammates to his right, JaMychal Green and Patrick Beverley, cracked up in laughter. Coach Doc Rivers, normally a hive of activity during timeouts, crossed his legs at the ankles while slightly leaning back in his courtside chair, making conversation with his assistants.
There was no Clippers huddle because there was nothing to discuss. They led by 37 points with seven minutes still to play and were well on their way to a 126-103 rout of the Pelicans.
The Pelicans guard and L.A. product will donate his salary for the rest of the season to Black-owned businesses and organizations in three cities.
The moment stood in stark contrast to Thursday’s first game of the NBA restart, a taut, down-to-the-wire loss to the Lakers that ended only after Paul George’s three-pointer misfired at the buzzer.
Two days later, George rarely missed against New Orleans and it was his effortless shooting — his first three shots, all three-pointers, pushed the Clippers to a 12-2 lead in the opening minutes — that transformed any notion of a first-game hangover into the reality of a rout.
George’s eight three-pointers propelled him to 28 points in 26 minutes and helped the Clippers make a franchise-record 25 three-pointers on 53% shooting from behind the arc. And consider too that they did it without sharpshooter Lou Williams, who remains in quarantine.
“We’re going to have nights like this where we’re dialed in behind the three-point line because we have so many great three-point shooters,” George said. “Tonight was special with the way we shot it, no doubt.”
Jimmy Butler scored 22 points to help Miami beat Denver, while T.J. Warren’s 53-point night lifted Indiana over Philadelphia and Joel Embiid.
The win was the 939th of Rivers’ career, moving him past Red Auerbach for 11th on the NBA’s career victories list, and exhibited none of the mistakes that doomed them against the Lakers.
The supporting cast that faded Thursday? Marcus Morris and Landry Shamet each broke shooting droughts to score nine points apiece, with their contributions coming long before garbage time.
Instead of forcing shots where there was no opportunity, Reggie Jackson was more patient and scored 15 points in 20 minutes, helping the Clippers build a 32-point halftime lead.
The Clippers committed 10 turnovers, half as many as two days earlier.
Orlando forward Jonathan Isaac declined to kneel for the national anthem before an NBA game because of religious beliefs, not a disagreement with BLM.
George’s final three-pointer featured the highest degree of difficulty. At a standstill just inside the arc on the baseline in front of his teammates, he quickly stepped backward, away from the defense of Lonzo Ball, one of the league’s best perimeter defenders, and fired from the corner. When he checked out of the game for good seconds later, with 4:04 remaining in the third quarter, his teammates gave him a standing ovation whose claps punctured the silence inside the empty gymnasium.
“If a team lines up like they did and they make 25 threes out of 47 chances, you’re probably going to have a tough time beating them,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said.
Counting scrimmages, George has made 24 of his 41 three-pointers since arriving in Orlando, Fla., and has flourished in an offense that is launching nearly half of all shots from three-point range, far more than they had from October through March.
“I think that break really helped him,” said Leonard, who had 24 points, six rebounds and five assists. “He missed the first 20 games this regular season before the little hiatus. I think he’s just healthy now. He’s feeling good with that shoulder, being able to bump guys, do crossovers, be able to get his shot off.
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“We know he’s our guy, he’s one of the guys we need to go to to win these basketball games. He’s been making shots, doing great at it.”
At that point, he and his fellow starters settled in for a relaxing finish. But it wasn’t entirely true that the Clippers had nothing to discuss in the fourth quarter.
During the final minute, George told rookie guard Terance Mann to take a three-pointer if he got a clean look because the team needed one more for a franchise record.
With nine seconds left, Mann rose and fired the record-breaker from the wing. All those teammates who had sat so placidly in their seats just minutes before spilled onto the court, with George and Green leaping to bump hips with the rookie.
Three observations on the Clippers
1. The Clippers continue to attempt far more three-pointers during the restart than they did during the pre-hiatus portion of the season. They hoisted 47 on Saturday and made 25 — a franchise record. George made eight of the 11 he attempted. Ten Clippers sank at least one three-pointer.
2. Outside of George and Kawhi Leonard, who combined for 58 points against the Lakers, the Clippers’ supporting cast struggled to contribute offensively in Thursday’s restart opener. Against the Pelicans, however, players such as Marcus Morris and Landry Shamet, who combined to make one field goal Thursday, and Reggie Jackson, who had often forced plays, helped build the one-sided advantage. Morris finished with nine points, Shamet had nine and Jackson scored 15.
3. The Clippers accomplished what few have this season by making rookie sensation Zion Williamson, the 6-foot-6, 285-pound highlight machine, appear human. With New Orleans carefully monitoring his conditioning, Williamson played his 14 minutes in what Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry called “short bursts.” Before tipoff, Clippers coach Doc Rivers cautioned that Williamson’s “minutes are impactful,” no matter how many he would play. Usually that is true. But facing Williamson for the first time this season, the Clippers held last year’s top draft pick to seven points.
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