Clippers stop short-handed Pelicans

Clippers' Paul George is fouled by New Orleans Pelicans' Sindarius Thornwell.
Clippers’ Paul George is fouled by New Orleans Pelicans’ Sindarius Thornwell in the first quarter at the Staples Center on Wednesday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Clippers coach Tyronn Lue dismissed the notion his team would overlook their short-handed opponent Wednesday night inside Staples Center.

“It’s definitely a dangerous game,” Lue said before tipoff against New Orleans, which was missing three starters, “and we’re definitely keeping our team alert that, you know, just because guys are out it’s not going to be an easy game.”

The coach was correct. Despite an 18-point halftime lead, the Clippers needed a scoring burst from Kawhi Leonard to keep the Pelicans at bay in a 111-106 victory that improved the Clippers to 8-4. Here are three takeaways from the game:


Clippers bottled up on the boards

New Orleans’ defensive strategy is only one of their defining characteristics under coach Stan Van Gundy. Rebounding better than anyone else this season is another, and nothing the Clippers did could change that.

The Pelicans, who entered the game having grabbed the highest percentage of rebounds in the league — the Clippers ranked 13th — had six more rebounds at halftime and nine through three quarters but the effect was felt most on offense, where New Orleans grabbed 10 offensive rebounds and scored seven second-chance points on 10 opportunities. Through three quarters, New Orleans had scored 36 points inside the paint, to the Clippers’ 10, in large part because of seven offensive boards combined between Jaxson Hayes and Steven Adams.

James Harden is reunited with former Oklahoma City teammate Kevin Durant, giving the Brooklyn Nets the NBA’s best Big 3 and hopes of challenging the Lakers.

Jan. 13, 2021

The Clippers did a better job taking away New Orleans’ targets.

Three days after the Clippers struggled to contain the few offensive options left on a short-handed Chicago roster, their defense faced a similar situation. With three Pelicans starters out, there was never any doubt the bulk of their shooting would run through their most dangerous shooters, in Brandon Ingram and JJ Redick.

This time, the defense tightened and forced Ingram and Redick’s teammates to step up. Ingram made just two of his 11 shots in the first half and three of his 15 shots through three quarters, while three-point specialist Redick was just one of five from deep through three quarters. Neither was able to rack up more than three assists in the same span.

It had a trickle-down effect on the rest of the offense, which required a career-best scoring game from second-year guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker to stay in the game.


Williams can’t provide boost off the bench

Coming off a season-best 21 points Sunday, reserve guard Lou Williams didn’t play in the second half and spent much of the time using a device to massage the area around his left hip and quadriceps. Before tipoff, Williams had been listed as probable to play because of left hip discomfort but went on to play nine first-half minutes before sitting. Even without Williams, Lue didn’t expand his rotation to include bench guards Terance Mann or Reggie Jackson.

Lue was not sure whether Williams would play Friday in Sacramento.

“He has some hip soreness tonight, he tried to play,” Lue said. “At halftime he just said it was pretty sore. We didn’t want to chance it and put him in in that second half.”

That left the scoring load to fall to Paul George andLeonard. Leonard’s first three-pointer, with five minutes left in the fourth quarter, pushed the Clippers’ lead to 10 after it had been cut to four just three minutes earlier.

Clippers coach Tyronn Lue changed his rotations Sunday to create more opportunities for Lou Williams, who took advantage with a 21-point performance.

Jan. 11, 2021

Williamson out

New Orleans bullied the Clippers on the glass despite missing three starters, including their most athletic rebounder in Zion Williamson, who watched from his hotel room because of the NBA’s health and safety protocols. Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy said Williamson’s COVID-19 test was inconclusive and “timing became a factor” in holding him out.


Because of the unknown surrounding the result — amid a week in which the league has postponed eight games since Sunday — Van Gundy said the team hadn’t been asked to perform any contact tracing.

“I don’t think [the NBA] likes anybody being out, certainly not somebody of Zion’s stature, so, if they could avoid it they would,” Van Gundy said. “Look, this is about a deadly pandemic: 4,400 people died in this country yesterday of the virus, and so we’ll deal with whatever we have to deal with to go out and play an NBA basketball game, but that’s not what’s important in this pandemic.”