When I first heard that Paul George had entered health and safety protocols, I wrote off the game between the LA Clippers and New Orleans Pelicans. I thought the Pelicans would quite simply overwhelm the Clippers. Things even seemed to be on script in the first half, with the Pelicans driving their lead to as much as 16 points before taking a 56-46 lead after two quarters. CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram looked like they were going to help the upstart Pelicans coast to a victory.
Then, as they’ve done so many times this season, the Clippers turned it on in the second half. Coach Tyronn Lue changed things up and went with a smaller lineup in the second half, and they immediately rewarded him with a 38-18 performance in the third quarter that completely flipped the script and gave them an 84-74 advantage heading into the final quarter.
Things looked like they were going great for the Clippers at the start of the fourth, too, as they pushed their lead to 87-74 with 10:51 left in the game. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the Pelicans gave them a taste of their own medicine.
The boys from New Orleans went on a 14-1 run that tied the game with a CJ McCollum three-pointer that made it 88-88 with 7:35 to go, which started to cause worry in the LA crowd watching the game live. The Clippers were able to retake a 94-91 lead with 4:40 left, but they had clearly lost the momentum. They would never hold the lead again after that and lost the war of attrition to close out the game and lose 105-101.
Pelicans fans were understandably elated by the result.
This play-in contest showed why the format is great. There are high stakes, and the double-elimination format for the teams that finishing 7th and 8th for the season adds to the drama.
McCollum, who has now extended his career record of never missing the playoffs, gave plenty of credit to Ingram in his postgame interview.
You’ve got to give credit to the Clippers, who got 27 points from both Marcus Morris Sr. and Reggie Jackson. They simply ran out of gas and sorely needed PG’s shotmaking at the end of the game. Coach Lue continues to show his tactical acumen, even in defeat.
Ingram, who finished with 30 points, six rebounds and six assists, again showed why he was the centrepiece of the deal that sent Anthony Davis to LA. Now, he finally gets to show off his game in the playoffs.
With the playoffs set to start tomorrow, this Pelicans – Clippers game was the perfect way to get all of us NBA fans excited for the postseason. Now the true grind begins.