Five Takeaways: Paul Returns, But Clippers Drop Fourth Straight Game
LOS ANGELES – A nine-point second-half lead evaporated against the Pelicans (13-21), and a last-minute comeback attempt fell a shot short, as the Clippers (22-12) dropped their fourth straight game.
Here are five quick takeaways from the Clippers’ 102-98 loss.
1) Paul returns, Redick out again – Head coach Doc Rivers said at shootaround both Chris Paul and J.J. Redick were “probably doubtful” with hamstring injuries, but he also added it would be a game-time decision for both. The news ended up better for Paul, who returned from a three-game absence and posted 21 points, eight rebounds and six assists, while passing Isiah Thomas for No. 15 on the NBA’s all-time steals leaderboard in the process.
But Rivers said he didn’t want Paul to play more than 30 minutes in his return, so Paul wasn’t on the floor after the Clippers went ahead by three points in the final minute. Redick, meanwhile, missed his second straight game. Rivers said Redick wasn’t ready yet, though he thought Redick looked good going through some shooting and running.
2) Late spark falls just short – The Pelicans lead was at eight with less than a minute left when it got interesting, leaving the Clippers with a chance to tie in the final seconds. Austin Rivers, who finished with 22 points, hit a 3-pointer with 46 seconds left. Then Raymond Felton stole a Jrue Holiday pass, and Paul got the ball and found Jamal Crawford on a lay-up. When the Clippers got a stop at the other end, they got a look for Marreese Speights at the other end for a contested 3-pointer at the top of the key that hit front rim and just fell off the mark.
3) Third quarter Pelicans runs prevent double-digit leads – Twice in the third quarter, the Clippers had chances to get the lead to double digits and potentially run away with a win. And twice, the Pelicans answered with an 8-0 run. The first came courtesy of rookie Buddy Hield, who finished with 17 points and hit back-to-back 3-pointers on the first New Orleans run.
The second came in the final minute and a half of the third quarter. Luc Mbah a Moute did a nice job on Anthony Davis all night, holding him to 10 points through nearly three full quarters when Davis all of a sudden racked up six points in a matter of seconds as part of the Pelicans’ 8-0 run to close the quarter and put New Orleans in position to make a fourth-quarter run to pull ahead.
4) Jordan records first first-quarter double-double – DeAndre Jordan played a day after his car accident, and he accomplished something he never had before, posting a double-double after just a quarter. Jordan had 11 points and 10 rebounds at that point, not only accomplishing the feat for the first time in his career but also becoming the first player in the NBA this season to do so.
Jordan finished with 13 points and a season-high 25 rebounds, though he’d like to have his final one back. As Jordan secured the defensive rebound, he tried to keep the ball in bounds, and Davis stole it and hit a shot to put the Pelicans ahead by eight points with 1:40 left, seemingly ending the Clippers’ hopes at a win.
5) Transition struggles – Head coach Doc Rivers said his speech before the game was all about transition defense and 3-pointers, but the Pelicans still got out on the run for easy finishes. The Pelicans recorded 29 fast-break points to the Clippers’ two, turning 13 Clippers turnovers into 22 points. And while the Clippers held the Pelicans to 10-for-29 shooting behind the arc, the Pelicans hit some big ones down the stretch in the fourth quarter.
What’s Next? – The Clippers continue their three-game trip Friday in Houston.
Notes: Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry was ejected from the game after arguing a call in the second quarter, leading to five Chris Paul free throws … Marreese Speights, who led the bench with 11 points, needed four stitches in his left eyebrow after leaving briefly trying to take a charge on a Tyreke Evans drive …