Pelicans vs. Clippers Preview: Expect New Orleans to Continue Its Regular Season Dominance of LA

Jacob McKenna breaks down Friday night's NBA Play-In Tournament game between the New Orleans Pelicans and LA Clippers.

Pelicans vs. Clippers Odds

Pelicans Odds +4
Clippers Odds -4
Over/Under 216
Time 10 p.m. ET
Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

The New Orleans Pelicans will make a trip to the West Coast on Friday to take on the LA Clippers in what is a win-or-go-home game for both teams in the Play-In Tournament.

The Pelicans enter this matchup coming off of a 10-point victory against the Spurs on Wednesday, giving themselves one more opportunity to solidify themselves as the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference.

On the other hand, the Clippers did not have the same luck in the 7-8 game of the Play-In Tournament, suffering a 109-104 loss at the hands of the Timberwolves.

Only one spot remains up for grabs in the Western Conference. Will we see it go to a Clippers team that had won five straight games prior to their most recent loss, or will we see the Pelicans make the playoffs for the first time since 2018?

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New-Look Pelicans On the Rise

The beginning of the 2021-22 NBA season made it appear that New Orleans was destined for a draft pick near the top of the lottery. The Pelicans began the season with just a 1-12 record through the first 13 games, and Zion Williamson had no timetable for a return.

However, the Pelicans managed to flip the script entirely, and thanks to some late-season acquisitions, they find themselves one win away from ending their playoff drought.

Since acquiring CJ McCollum from Portland, the Pelicans have posted an Offensive Rating of 117.2, which ranks ninth in the NBA over that span. McCollum has clearly given this offense some much needed juice with Williamson sidelined, as prior to that trade New Orleans had the 19th-best Offensive Rating at 111.2.

Another player who has made an impact in the late stages of the season is rookie Jose Alvarado. Alvarado does not always make a large impact on offense, but in his last three games, he has averaged 12 points per game and has been a menace on the defensive end. He has averaged just under two steals per game in his last five games.

Combine those two with Brandon Ingram, Jonas Valanciunas, Devonte’ Graham, and rookie Herb Jones, and you have a roster that is more than capable of winning this matchup.

Paul George Gives the Ascending Clippers Another Element

After making the Western Conference Finals last season, the Clippers had high hopes that they would make another leap this season. However, with Paul George and Kawhi Leonard missing a majority of the year, LA essentially just tried to stay afloat until they both returned to the floor.

Leonard still has no timetable for his return, but George has been back in the lineup for a few weeks now, which has been critical for this team down the stretch.

In the games that George has played, LA has gone 4-2 overall with wins over Utah, Phoenix, Sacramento, and this New Orleans team. In that six-game stretch, he has averaged 24.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 6.5 assists while shooting 52% from three and 42% from the field, showcasing his ability to do just about everything on the floor.

His impact has been felt on both ends of the floor, as the Clippers have posted the third-best Offensive Rating (123.3) and seventh-best Defensive Rating (110.6) in their last eight games. George gives this team a new dynamic that they were missing for a majority of the season, and having him back in the lineup full-time makes the Clippers a much more competitive team.

Pelicans-Clippers Pick

Despite the success that the Clips have seen with George back in the lineup, I think backing the Pelicans on the spread is the best option for this matchup.

New Orleans and Los Angeles have crossed paths four times this season, resulting in the Pelicans winning three of those games by an average of 18.7 points. In addition, the Pelicans have posted an Offensive Rating of 113.8 in that four-game stretch followed by a Defensive Rating of 104, which is significantly better than their season Defensive Rating of 112.

The Clippers won the last matchup by 19 points, but I like the Pelicans to keep things much closer this time around.

Pick: New Orleans Pelicans +4 (-110)