There are several reasons why New Orleans basketball fans might prefer to forget the NBA’s 2020 restart in Orlando, but one was a July game in which the Clippers torched the nets against the Pelicans, sinking 25 three-pointers. Although the personnel has changed significantly for both NOLA and L.A. over the past six months, the Clippers reprised that performance in Staples Center on Wednesday, using accurate deep shooting (18 of 37 on treys) to hold off the Pelicans.
Although New Orleans dropped the opener of what has turned into a six-game road trip, there were plenty of reasons to come away encouraged, particularly due to the play of its two young point guards. Moving into significantly greater roles due to the injury absences of starters Lonzo Ball and Eric Bledsoe, second-year pro Nickeil Alexander-Walker played incredibly well and erupted for 37 points, while rookie lottery pick Kira Lewis was very good in his backup minutes.
IT WAS OVER WHEN…
Paul George sank a three-pointer to give the Clippers a 10-point lead with just over two minutes remaining, then the hosts caused a Pelicans turnover that led to Serge Ibaka’s fast-break dunk to put the margin at 110-98 with 1:46 left. New Orleans later actually got back within six and had a chance to cut the lead in half, but Alexander-Walker launched a rare misfire from the arc.
PELICANS PLAYER OF THE GAME
As ESPN broadcaster Dave Pasch put it as he closed the telecast, “Nickeil Alexander-Walker had the best game of his life.” While the Virginia Tech product may have potentially scored more points or made a bigger impact in some basketball contest at a lower level, there’s no doubt that Wednesday was the pinnacle of his brief NBA existence. Alexander-Walker drained pull-up and spot-up threes, drove through the Clipper defense for layups and went for his 37 points in efficient fashion, going 15/23 from the field and 5/8 from the arc.
BY THE NUMBERS
23-12: Clippers edge in made foul shots. The Pelicans were above average in limiting free throws early in the season, but lately have begun giving up too many (LA took 27).
33.0: Alexander-Walker’s scoring average in his two NBA starts. He racked up 29 points in the finale of his rookie season, an Aug. 13 game in the Orlando bubble vs. the Magic.
48-36: New Orleans rebounding edge, highlighted by Jaxson Hayes’ season-best outing on the boards.
Revisiting Three Keys to Victory
POINT GUARD ADJUSTMENT
This went about as well as you could’ve possibly hoped. “He was fantastic,” Stan Van Gundy said of Alexander-Walker’s eye-opening performance. On Lewis (10 points, 2/3 on threes), Van Gundy noted that the 19-year-old “has a lot to build on. His quickness is great, he can shoot the ball and will shoot when he’s open. It’s all good.”
PELICANS VS. WINGS
New Orleans didn’t have a ton of success defensively against Clippers stars George and Kawhi Leonard. They topped their combined season average of 49.4 points by totaling 55 on nearly 50 percent shooting. George went 5/9 on threes, making a few very difficult and contested shots.
MISTAKE-FREE AGAINST LAC
Very good. The Pelicans only committed 11 turnovers. Shooting was the major offensive shortcoming that helped dig a hole in the second quarter.