The Clippers fail to hold on to their fourth-quarter advantage in a 105-101 loss that ends their season. The Pelicans got off to a fast start with Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum. Ingram, who went 8-for-9 in the first quarter, accounted for 16 of his team’s 30 points.
The Clippers were also unable to control Larry Nance Jr’s agility in the first half, as he scored eight points off the bench. He had 14 points and 16 rebounds in the game tonight.
Reggie Jackson, on the other hand, continued his trend of holding down the fort as the Clippers’ number one option this season. In the absence of Paul George, Jackson served as Los Angeles’ sole offensive engine at times.
Both teams shot poorly from three in the first half, with the Pelicans shooting 12.5 percent and the Clippers shooting 19 percent, respectively. The Pelicans, on the other hand, were able to compensate for this by increasing their paint presence.
The New Orleans big men were simply unstoppable, scoring 34 points in the restricted area and grabbing 21 defensive boards.
In the first half, the Clippers went 6-for-11 from the free-throw line. Despite this, Los Angeles stayed in the game, trimming the margin to only 10 points at halftime, when they trailed 56-46.
A more fluid offense, a more tenacious defense, and a 7-0 surge to start the second half reduced the margin to just three points. The Clippers found ways to make the game interesting early in the second half, whether it was a halftime break to calm nerves, renewed defensive vigor, or some in-game tweaks from the “Bill Belichick of basketball” (yes, Bill Simmons, I said it).
They used that defense, as well as some Reggie Jackson magic, to seize the lead for the first time since the first quarter, when it was 8-6.
The Clippers were particularly successful in making things difficult for CJ McCollum. During their third-quarter run, defensive-minded forwards Nicolas Batum and Robert Covington drew the majority of the McCollum assignments, demonstrating their adaptability.
However, the Clippers’ rebounding issues persisted, as they have all season. The Pelicans, led by Nance Jr., collected 54 rebounds to the Clippers’ 45, including several extra shots in the game’s most vital moments.
The Clippers did what they’ve done all season: exemplify a “Next Man Up” mentality and make up the production in the aggregate, with Jackson and Marcus Morris Sr. on the offensive end and Batum on the defensive end. The loss of Paul George and Luke Kennard, in particular, was felt near the end of the game.
With 7:30 left in the game, the Pelicans replied with a 14-3 run to tie the game. After some more heroics from Jackson and Morris Sr., a Pelicans offensive rebound and corner three tied the game again about two and a half minutes later.
Missed free throws in the final seconds of the game allowed the Pelicans enough breathing room to finish the game. For the Clippers, it was a disappointing finale to the game and the season.
The Clippers, on the other hand, refused to give up, as they had all season. A handful of ill-timed absences at the end of the season — one that the Clippers refused to allow ailments define and govern — ended up putting the icing on an otherwise excellent season.
And as a Clippers fan, I’ve thoroughly appreciated every minute of it. No matter who was on the court or in front of them, this team continued to compete. This team isn’t going anywhere, even though the season is done. Clips Nation is incredibly proud of them.