The Clippers lost to the Pelicans 105-101 in a tough, hard-fought play-in game that saw several major runs by both teams. Ultimately, the Clippers ran out of energy in the 4th quarter, and with the loss, their 2022 season comes to an end. Keep reading for a full summary of the Clippers’ brutal loss to the Pelicans.
The first quarter started with the Clippers playing with a nice bit of energy. Brandon Ingram started the game cooking from midrange over the smaller Terance Mann, while CJ McCollum lost Marcus Morris a couple times on switches but couldn’t make the shots. However, the Clippers were off from three, and Ingram refused to miss, burying shot after shot, all from midrange and all contested. Ty Lue decided to start trapping Ingram from 30 feet out, but Ingram made smart reads in getting the ball out early and the Pelicans made easy shots at the rim. The Clippers, still frigid from three, could not respond, and the Pelicans held an eight point lead going into the second.
The second quarter started terribly. With Morris and Reggie out, the Clippers were not able to generate any offense – their only scores game on putbacks on offensive rebounds. Norm Powell and Hartenstein were particularly bad, with Hart getting roasted on defense and Powell getting torched while also missing tons of shots. Reggie and Morris returned to re-establish some order, and they did so on offense, but the Pelicans were rolling and continued to make a ton of midrange jumpers. Finally, Ty Lue played the small ball card with Reggie, Norm, Nico, RoCo, and Morris, and that unit, while giving up some second chance buckets to Larry Nance, was actually able to get some scores and also slowed Ingram and McCollum. Thus it was that the Clippers, after nearly being down 20 at points, trailed by a mere 10 going into halftime.
Ty Lue started Robert Covington in place of Zubac, and the switch bought immediate fruit with a quick 7-0 run in just 90 seconds to trim the lead to three. The Clippers’ defense was absolutely locked in, leaving the Pelicans’ non shooters to clog the lane and make things tough for Ingram and McCollum. On the other end, Reggie Jackson sizzled, torching whatever Pels defender was in front of him (especially CJ) to score at the rim. Nic Batum shut down Ingram, and the Clippers’ began to grow a lead. Finally, when the lead hit 11, Ingram re-asserted and hit two tough midrange jumpers. The Clippers began to look a bit tired, and the Pels, led by Valanciunas, started to feast on the offensive glass and free throw line. Still, the Clippers hit enough shots to retain a 10 point lead heading into the final frame.
The Clippers grew their lead to 13 after a tough Morris make and a Norm free throw, but it was mostly downhill from there. The Pelicans went on a quick 6-0 run, forcing a Clippers timeout. Norm Powell continued to play poorly on both ends, falling asleep on defensive rotations and forcing shots on offense. Ty took him out for Mann, returning to the lineup that was so good to start the 3rd, but fatigue had set in, and the magic was gone. The Pelicans were fresher on both ends, moving the ball and getting open shots, and snaring offensive rebounds when they did miss. The Clippers battled, but the Pels took the lead, and went up by as many as 7 with 2:10 to go. A quick Clippers flurry brought the deficit to 2, but a silly foul by Batum on Herb Jones in the penalty gave the Pelicans two free throws and a four point edge. Lue challenged the call, but it was upheld, and the Clippers were in desperation mode. The rest of the game was mostly a fouling contest, and the Clippers missed a couple steal opportunities as well as a free thow, putting the game out of reach, and resulting in a 105-101 loss.
Ty Trims Rotation, Goes Small: I said at halftime on Twitter that Ty Lue might go with a 7 man rotation in the second half, but he did me one better and went with a six-man rotation outside of Amir Coffey playing 24 seconds and Zu and Hart coming in to rebound in the final seconds. The small lineup was great in the end of the second quarter and most of the third, but the players simply ran out of energy and couldn’t muster enough down the stretch. Reggie played 46 minutes, Morris 43, Mann 37, Covington 35, and Batum 33, and nearly all of their rests came in the first half. Of those guys, only Mann is under 30, and you could see that he was the only one with some legs at the end. While going small was the right call, not playing Zu at all (when he played well in the first half) when the Clippers were getting killed on the glass seemed at least a bit questionable. But Hart and Coffey were really bad in their short stints, and the list of guys who Lue could trust was clearly very, very small.
Big Government Comes Through: What a game from Reggie Jackson, who was spectacular in the 4th quarter and performed nearly all the ballhandling duties for the Clips against an excellent defender in Herb Jones. He scored 27 points on 22 shots, had 9 rebounds, dished 8 assists to 2 turnovers, and battled on defense. He couldn’t push the team to victory, but it was another fun performance by Reggie, who has firmly solidified himself as a Clippers legend.
Morris Plays Well Til the End: I’ve been on hard on Marcus Morris as anyone, and he was very rough at times against the Wolves on Tuesday. But he responded today with on of the best games of his career. He dropped 27 on an efficient 20 shots, and scored seemingly every time the Clippers needed a bucket. More importantly, he brought in 9 rebounds and gave out 5 assists, a beautiful sight after he had zero boards against the Wolves. Morris did take some atrocious shots late in the game that the Clippers probably wish they could have back, but it was an “A” game from him and he played very well on both ends until the last couple minutes.
RoCo and Nico Stand Out: The lynchpin to the Clippers’ small unit on defense were Nic Batum and Robert Covington, and both played phenomenally well. Batum was 1-7 from the floor and was 0-5 from deep, but it makes sense considering the energy he was expending on defense. Some of his possessions against Brandon Ingram were absolutely textbook, and he showed why he should have been in the All-Defense running both this year and last year. RoCo, meanwhile, was a great help defender and also contributed on offense with 14 points on 7 shots, showing exactly why the Clippers need to bring him back next year. Imagining these two next to PG and Kawhi… well, it’s exciting.
Glass Half Full: While the Clippers losing in the play-in and not making the playoffs proper is disappointing, this team is clearly running on fumes. George would have missed at least the first couple games with COVID, and there’s no guarantee he would have been near 100% afterwards. The rested, 64-win Suns would have been too much for the Clippers even with a healthy George, and without him, and a still-integrating Norm (who was awful in this one for the most part), the Clippers wouldn’t have had a prayer. So, it’s time to rest, get healthy, and then reload for next season.
That does it for our coverage of the 2022 Clippers. There were some incredible highs. There were some miserable lows. But overall, it was a fun season with a hard-fighting team that never gave up despite tons of injuries and bad luck. We are gonna take a bit of time off to recover before coming back with our usual year-end exit interviews. In the meantime, try to enjoy the rest of the playoffs as best as possible!