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Defenseless Clippers get blown out in the Big Easy

Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram gets past Clippers forwards Nicolas Batum and Paul George for a layup.
The Pelicans’ Brandon Ingram gets past Clippers defenders Nicolas Batum and Paul George for a layup Sunday night in New Orleans. The Clippers lost 135-115.
(Matthew Hinton / Associated Press)

Even before the Clippers lost a second starter to an injury, coach Tyronn Lue had lamented his team’s lack of resistance on defense against the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday night.

Those two missing starters, center Serge Ibaka and point guard Patrick Beverley, are undoubtedly two of the Clippers’ top defenders.

But to show so much indifference to defending, giving up 110 points through three quarters, was the primary issue.

The Clippers trailed by 33 points early in the fourth quarter at Smoothie King Center in New Orleans en route to a 135-115 loss.

When the game was over, Lue found himself swearing while answering questions about his team’s porous defensive effort. He would apologize for his language, but it was obvious he was incensed by how the Clippers played.

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“It’s hard to stop any team if you give up 72 points in the paint,” Lue said to begin his videoconference. “I thought they got everything they wanted. Almost 50% from three. [Almost] 70% from the field.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, NBA teams have adjusted their routines, particularly practice, which has led to a lack of continuity this season.

“No resistance. No toughness. I thought they just ... we didn’t give any resistance. We didn’t show any toughness tonight, and that’s why they had 72 points in the paint.”

Lue was right on point.

The Clippers (25-15) gave up 72 points in the paint and allowed the Pelicans (17-22) to make 65.4% of their shots from the field, including 46.2% of their three-point tries.

That’s what led to Pelicans forward Zion Williamson scoring 27 points, missing just three of his 16 shots.

That’s what helped Brandon Ingram perform so smoothly in scoring 23 points. He was seven for 12 from the field and three for six from three-point range.

And that’s what allowed Lonzo Ball to continue his torrid shooting. He scored 20 points on seven-for-10 shooting, including five for eight on three-pointers.

“They were more physical than us,” Lue said. “They were tougher than us, and you saw the results. We just got to be better. We got to be more physical. We got to have a defensive mind-set to start every game. ... I don’t care who you’re playing.”

Kawhi Leonard scored 23 points for the Clippers, and Paul George added 15.

Ibaka didn’t play in the second half because of lower-back tightness. Beverley didn’t travel on the three-game trip because of an injured right knee.

But Lue wasn’t buying any injury excuses. When asked whether missing those two key players make it more difficult for the Clippers, Lue was succinct.

“No,” he said. “Everybody is missing guys all year long. That’s not an excuse. I just think we didn’t play with the physicality we needed to play with tonight. If a guy [Williamson] is 13 for 16 from the field, one free throw [made], no threes [attempted]. I mean, not even put him on the free-throw line. ... Not even trying to get in his way to stop him.

“You know, until we show some toughness and until we show some willingness to guard one-on-one, I think it’s going to be tough for us. We got to take that responsibility every single night, and we didn’t do that tonight.”

The Clippers have lost five of their last seven games.

“I’m not discouraged because we’ve shown that we can play at a high level,” Lue said. “But we got to do it every single night. We can’t keep talking about it. We got to [expletive]. ... Sorry. ... My bad.”

Clearly, Lue was exasperated, even toward the end, with one of his last words before exiting a swear word.

UP NEXT

AT DALLAS

When: 6 p.m. PDT, Monday.

On the air: TV: Fox Sports Prime Ticket; Radio: 570

Update: In playing back-to-back games, the Clippers face a Mavericks team that has won five of its last six. It’s the first of two consecutive meetings between the teams, as the Clippers will be at Dallas on Wednesday night. Luka Doncic leads the Mavericks in scoring (28.2) and assists (9.1) and is second in rebounds (8.4).


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