Clippers Top Pelicans 133-130 with Huge Games from Kawhi Leonard and Lou Williams
The Clippers defense was mostly bad again, but their offense was enough to make up for it, together with some timely stops in the 4th quarter.
This game opened much like the Clippers past couple games have, with the Clippers looking sharp offensively. Kawhi Leonard, too, was in fine fettle, getting to his spots on the court and draining seemingly every jumper. The defense, unfortunately, was less promising, with Derrick Favors dominating inside, but the Clippers were able to build a small lead despite missing numerous open threes. As the bench unit came in, the offense slowed a bit, and the Pelicans were able to stake a one-possession lead entering the second quarter.
At this point, everything seemed to fall apart. The Clippers defense, shaky in the first, completely collapsed, giving the Pelicans open threes time and time again. Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell were exposed frequently, with better defenders like JaMychal Green and Jerome Robinson failing to stem the flood. The only thing keeping the Clippers in the game was Lou’s ability to get to the foul line and convert – without that, the Clips would have been left in the dust. Even with the starters returning, the Clippers’ effort and decision-making defensively remained poor, and the Pelicans held on to an eight-point lead entering the half after a monster 45 point quarter.
The third quarter started off just as poorly, with the Pelicans quickly extending their lead into the teens through nice ball movement and Clippers’ misses. Kawhi Leonard almost singlehandedly pushed the deficit back into single deficits with his play on both ends, but the rest of the Clippers continued to miss wide open shots. Landry Shamet then stepped up a bit, driving to the basket and scoring nicely even though his outside shot wasn’t falling – a great sign. Still, try as they might, the Clippers could not bring the Pels’ lead below six.
Mr. 4th quarter, Lou Williams, changed all that. He scored a couple buckets, got a steal, and assisted a Green three to tie the game back up – all within a minute of game time. A quick Pelicans timeout got them a bit more focused, but the Clippers, finally within striking distance, slowly took the game over behind Lou and Kawhi along with some much-improved defense. Pat Beverley produced several massive offensive rebounds, Montrezl Harrell chipped in a couple nice buckets, and the Clippers maintained a small edge as time ticked away. Up three with under a minute to go, Kawhi missed a shot, but Beverley got another board, and Lou Williams did not miss, draining a three to put the Clips up six. The Pelicans got a chance to tie, but missed, and the Clippers escaped the Big Easy with a win, 133-130.
Kawhi and Lou scorching: Kawhi Leonard and Lou Williams have carried the Clippers with Paul George out, and did so again today. Kawhi put up an extremely rare 35+ point, 5+ rebound, 5+ assist, 5+ steal game, and is putting together scoring performances unseen by a Clipper since World B Free two generations ago. He was ferocious on the defensive end today, swallowing up several passes while clamping down on Brandon Ingram, and is seemingly automatic from midrange. Lou, meanwhile, kept the Clippers alive with his free throw shooting before closing the game out in the 4th, and once again hit the biggest shot in the game. Both guys have been ridiculously good in January, and it’s hard to be worried too much about the team with them playing this well.
Shamet off the dribble: Landry Shamet has had his share of struggles this season, and had a few again today. He had several bad fouls, and was a part of some of the Clippers’ defensive breakdowns. However, this game was also the first time that we’ve really seen glimpses of that improved ballhandling that was the talk of training camp, as he beat several Pelicans’ defenders to the hoop with controlled and slick drives. His inability to contribute when his outside shot isn’t falling has been his biggest weakness, but if he can continue to drive like he did today, that could well change.
JaMyke needs to play more: JaMychal Green only played for 15 minutes tonight, far less than either Rodney McGruder or Jerome Robinson, and it’s confusing as to why. The Clippers are consistently better when Green plays due to his spacing, defense, and rebounding, and this was a good matchup for him. Barring a lingering injury, I’m just not sure why he’s not clearing 20 minutes every single night, especially with George out. He’s too good to be sitting for 66% of the game, as he’s one of the few Clippers who brings value on both ends of the court on a regular basis. Play JaMyke more!
Trez hurt: Montrezl Harrell briefly left the game in the late 3rd quarter with what looked like a right hip injury. He checked back into the game in the 4th quarter and made a couple huge plays, but still appeared to be limping a bit. The injury is pretty clearly nothing major (probably just a bruise) but it’s something to keep an eye on over the next few games. The last thing the Clippers need is another injury.