The first-ever season of the New Orleans Pelicans has been marred by injuries, for the most part, taking them out of any real playoff competition. Still, though, a win in New Orleans for the Clippers Wednesday night will be hard-earned. The Pelicans are playing their best basketball of the season right now, riding a three-game winning streak with impressive Ws over the likes of Atlanta, Miami and Brooklyn, three teams that are likely headed for the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Pels are 7-3 in their last 10 overall, and absolutely shouldn’t be taken lightly despite the sub-.500 record.
The Clippers also happen to be in the midst of one of their strongest stretches of the season at the moment, having won 14 of their last 15 games, the last of which was a not-so-easy 106-98 win over the league’s worst team, Milwaukee.
Tonight’s game will be the first of a five-game road swing for L.A. that will also take them through Dallas, Houston, Minnesota and Phoenix before returning home on April 3.
The Clippers and Pelicans have met twice very recently, on February 24 in New Orleans and then again March 1 in L.A. The Clippers took both games, including an absolute beatdown in the most recent meeting, 108-76. Anthony Davis, who is quickly emerging as a bonafide superstar in the league, racked-up three fouls in the first half of the first quarter that night, and was rendered fairly ineffective all night long in that one. L.A. also won the first matchup between the clubs back on December 18.
New Orleans has been without starters Jrue Holiday and Ryan Anderson for the majority of the season, though the expanded roles have helped the production of both Davis and newcomer Tyreke Evans. Evans has thrived since being inserted into the starting lineup last month, and absolutely ripped the Nets to shreds in the Pels’ most recent game. The former Rookie of the Year finished with 33 points, 10 rebounds, 7 assists and 3 steals in 43 minutes. The Clippers obviously know him well from his several seasons in Sacramento.
They key to stopping him is, obviously, keeping him out of the paint. He can’t shoot a lick, and does the majority of his damage by getting to the rim. L.A. obviously has better rim protection than Brooklyn does, so perhaps the mere presence of DeAndre Jordan in the middle can limit Evans a bit.
The real matchup to watch here is between the young power forwards, Davis and Blake Griffin. Davis has been on a personal tear recently, as well, as he’d scored 30 or more points in four consecutive games prior to being “limited” to 24 the other night against Brooklyn. He’s also the NBA’s leader in blocked shots and pulls down over 10 rebounds a game.
Griffin has a history of struggling against longer defenders throughout his career, though part of his maturation as a player this season has been learning to work his way around tougher opponents. It’s worth noting, however, that Griffin has had two of his weakest games on the glass this season against Davis and the Pelicans, as he nabbed a total of just seven in each of the last two meetings between the teams.
Let’s not forget that it’s another “homecoming” game for both Chris Paul and Darren Collison, who will likely both start and be matched-up against Brian Roberts and former Clipper Eric Gordon. Roberts, however, is questionable with a leg contusion. If he were to miss this game, Doc Rivers’ son, Austin, would probably get the start.
The Clippers are beginning to get some healthy bodies back, which bodes well for the stretch run and postseason. The only real question mark is J.J. Redick, who has been out since February 3 with a slew of maladies. He’s been practicing a bit, but Rivers doesn’t expect him to play during the team’s five-game trip.
About the Author
Written by Taylor Smith
Taylor Smith is a writer for the Los Angeles Clippers.