Matthew Hinton/Associated Press
The New Orleans Pelicans earned a 135-115 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday at home inside Smoothie King Center.
New Orleans headed into the All-Star break having dropped five of its last six games. Now, Stan Van Gundy’s squad is 2-0 in the second half and appears to be rejuvenated from the time off.
The Pelicans jumped ahead early thanks to a 36-point opening quarter and then dropped 43 in the third frame to eliminate any doubt about the outcome.
Zion Williamson, Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram all enjoyed 20-point nights, and New Orleans’ bench combined to score 49. New Orleans as a team shot a scintillating 65.4 percent from the field and knocked down 12 of its 26 three-pointers.
Lonzo Ball, PG, Pelicans: 20 points (7-10 FG, 5-8 3PT), eight rebounds, five assists, one steal
Zion Williamson, PF, Pelicans: 27 points (13-16 FG), five assists, two rebounds
Kawhi Leonard, SF, Clippers: 23 points (9-13 FG, 2-4 3PT), five rebounds, two assists, two steals
Paul George, SG, Clippers: 15 points (5-14 FG, 1-8 3PT), three rebounds, three assists, one steal
Zion Overwhelms Clippers Inside
The Clippers drew up the blueprint for exactly how not to stop Williamson in the paint.
The 2021 All-Star was unstoppable around the basket. It basically came down to the fact that Los Angeles didn’t have anybody on the roster who could individually match up with the 6’7″, 284-pound forward.
His combination of speed and power was simply too much, whether he was scoring himself or feeding open teammates.
Although it doesn’t appear the Pelicans are desperate to offload him, Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer reported Ball “has been widely discussed in preliminary trade conversations this winter.” The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor reported a week later that trade discussions “have fizzled for now.”
Ball, a restricted free agent in the summer, displayed why he should continue to be in New Orleans’ future plans.
While you’re here, spare a thought for Reggie Jackson, who was in the wrong place at the wrong time as Jaxson Hayes threw down a thunderous dunk.
By the letter of the law, Hayes’ taunting warranted a technical foul. But you can’t blame him for savoring the posterization.
Clippers Defense Takes the Night Off
Even the best teams have a bad night at the office on occasion. The Clippers entered this game short-handed as well, with knee soreness keeping Patrick Beverley out of action. Then Serge Ibaka was limited to eight minutes after experiencing lower back tightness.
But this performance rises to somewhat concerning levels when considering Los Angeles closed out the first half by losing four of its last five games.
The Clippers played flat to start Sunday night, and that set the tone for the rest of their outing.
Fans know how good this squad can be at its best, which makes the inconsistency all the more inexplicable.
The front office almost certainly won’t do anything to drastically alter the roster in the middle of the season. Especially if Ibaka’s back injury proves to be troublesome, general manager Michael Winger and president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank might have to weigh some minor reinforcements before the March 25 trade deadline, though.
The Clippers are back in action Monday against the Dallas Mavericks and have a return game with the Mavs in Dallas on Wednesday. The Pelicans hit the road for a pair of games with the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday and Thursday.