postgame: Clippers 123, Pelicans 110 (2/24/14)

by Jim Eichenhofer

Alexis Ajinca posts up against Clippers center DeAndre Jordan

The Los Angeles Clippers entered Monday’s game in New Orleans ranked 24th out of 30 teams in three-point percentage, at just 34.5. You’d never know it by the way the Clippers shot the ball from long distance in the Smoothie King Center, however.

Behind a barrage of threes, the Clippers overpowered the Pelicans, finishing 16-for-28 from beyond the arc. Los Angeles (39-20) shot over 50 percent from the field and connected on 57.1 percent of its treys. Normally a provider of instant offense off the bench, starting Clippers guard Jamal Crawford spearheaded the prolific attack, nailing seven three-pointers, part of a team-best 24-point game.

It was the most points New Orleans (23-33) has given up in a game since a 124-112 defeat at Minnesota on New Year’s Day, as well as the most three-pointers allowed by the Pelicans this season.

“Every time we made a run, (Crawford) made a shot that would kill the momentum,” said Pelicans guard Austin Rivers, who dropped to 1-2 in games played against his father, Clippers Coach Doc Rivers. “They made tough threes. It wasn’t like they were wide open.”

Despite an explosive offensive showing by the Clippers, the Pelicans remained within striking distance for a half, trailing 61-53 at intermission. Los Angeles broke it open in the third quarter with a 15-5 run in the initial four minutes, grabbing a 76-58 lead. The visitors poured in 93 points over the first three quarters, good for a 15-point advantage. New Orleans never got closer than 10 points of the lead in the fourth quarter.

In addition to Crawford’s seven three-pointers, five other Clippers drilled at least one trifecta. Hedo Turkoglu came off the bench to go 4-for-7 from long range.

“They had one of their nights where the ball was going in for them,” Pelicans Coach Monty Williams said. “There were a lot of shots where we had a hand up (on defense), they threw it up in the sky and it came down in the bucket. What I didn’t like was I thought there were times when they made a shot, and we allowed our spirit to get down a little bit.”

“In the first half I thought we played kind of OK defense,” Pelicans guard Brian Roberts said. “In the second half, we kind of picked it up. We knew we needed to be a little more physical. But at that point in the game, they were already in a rhythm and making shots. We really didn’t expect that from them – they were coming off a back-to-back (playing Sunday in Oklahoma City). But hats off to them. They made shots and were aggressive.”

The Pelicans lost their fourth straight game, despite scoring their most points since that same Jan. 1 game at Minnesota. Anthony Davis was one of various bright spots offensively, scoring 26 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Alexis Ajinca posted career highs in points (19) and rebounds (12), while four other Pelicans cracked double digits in scoring.

It doesn’t get much easier anytime soon for the Pelicans, who will head to Dallas on Tuesday in advance of Wednesday’s ESPN game against the Mavericks. New Orleans is also on ESPN on Friday when it visits Phoenix, followed by a Saturday rematch in Los Angeles against the Clippers.