The Clippers did their best, but were overwhelmed by Zion Williamson and the Pelicans in a road game in New Orleans, losing 112-104.

Game Summary

After last night’s offensive brilliance, it was fitting that both teams started this one very slowly on offense. There were bad turnovers and lots of missed (open) shots early, with the score sitting at 9-7 at the 5:34 mark. Subs started coming in, and the offense picked up slightly over the second half of the period, but not much. PJ Tucker checked in, as expected, and did a good job on Zion, while Kawhi’s 9 points helped the Clippers keep a 22-20 edge after one.

With PG in for Kawhi, the Clippers offense really struggled, and the Pelicans took a small lead within the first few minutes. Bones and Zu returned, but the Pelicans swarmed Bones and forced him into mistakes. The rest of the starters came back, and the defensive grind continued. The entire quarter slogged along with neither team able to get much headway until the end, when the Pelicans were able to grow their lead to six points on the back of paint scoring and free throws. At halftime, the Pelicans led 50-44.

The Clippers started the 3rd quarter with PJ over Mann. While PJ battled, it didn’t matter much, as he went to the rim over and over again and the Clippers could not stop him. The Pelicans went up by double figures, and the game seemed to be slipping. Ty then went with Terance Mann and Mason Plumlee, an interesting choice that somehow worked, with the Clippers crawling back to 65-63 at the 5:11 mark. The rest of the bench started trickling in, and the Kawhi + bench unit did work on offense, consistently scoring. Unfortunately, the Pelicans matched them, and a buzzer-beating lay-in by Zion gave the Pels an 82-80 lead going into the final frame.

The Clippers unit of Norm-PG-Amir-Mann-Zu gave up a quick 5-0 run, with things again slipping into dangerous territory. Norm answered with an and-one, but a Naji three and Murphy lob dunk put the Pels up 92-83 with 10:24 to go. And, honestly, that stretch decided the game. The Clippers battled hard, and cut the lead to as close as four at 100-96 at the 6:17 mark, but got no closer. Their defense finally tightened up on Zion (though he still continued to score semi-regularly), but their offense could not reach its 3rd quarter level. The Clippers fought until the bitter end, but just did not have enough, and the Pels won 112-104.


Fight is There: The Clippers have had some games lately where they rolled over and died when good teams punched them. While they lost, that was absolutely not the case tonight. The Pelicans looked like they were pulling away multiple times, and each time the Clippers fought back in it. On the second night of a back-to-back on the road (and 5th game in seven days), missing their 2nd best player, against a good team that was up for the fight, this was a totally justifiable – if disappointing – outcome.

Norm Injury: There was a scary moment late in the 4th quarter when Norm Powell dove for a loose ball in a scrum and twisted his ankle badly. He limped off the court, but came back into the game after the timeout and closed it. Going on adrenaline Norm might not have felt the pain much, so let’s hope that the injury really isn’t anything and that he doesn’t miss any time for it.

Plumlee in Rotation: After not being in the rotation for a few games, Mason Plumlee played in the 3rd quarter in place of Theis. It’s unclear if this was just a single game decision due to the Pelicans’ size and proclivity for attacking the paint, or whether the cycle on the backup center spot is now on the Plumlee rotation. I’ve been on the “Theis has outplayed Plumlee” bandwagon, but just for this game I think it was a fine choice to make.

The Big Picture: The Clippers are now just two losses ahead of the Pelicans and have lost the tiebreaker with them. They are extremely likely to face the Pelicans in the first round, which is bad. They are 1-3 against the Pelicans this year, and have struggled against them for years. Zion is a tough matchup. Still, the Pelicans are only a good, not great team – and if the Clippers can’t beat them in a 7-game series, they were never making a deep run anyway. Hopefully the next time these two teams play, the Clippers have a better gameplan for slowing Zion.

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