The New Orleans Pelicans will take on the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday with a playoff spot on the line.
The winner will claim the 8th seed and go on to face the Phoenix Suns in the first round of the NBA playoffs.
The Pels would love to continue their run and get their young guys some more reps in big games, but first they have to take care of the Clippers, a team they have beaten three times this season.
Just like with the Spurs, you can throw the regular season out the window, as this is a do-or-die game, so it doesn’t matter that the Pels have mostly handled the Clippers in their previous four meetings.
The Pels lost the last meeting in LA on April 4th by nearly 20 points, so they will have their work cut out for them if they want to go into a hostile environment and come out with a victory and playoff spot.
So what did the Pelicans do right in the first three matchups with the Clippers and how can they avoid what happened in the last meeting?
How the Pelicans beat the Clippers this season
The Pelicans beat the Clippers handily in their first three meetings but they got smacked in the last one, which was near the tail end of a Western Conference road trip.
When looking back over the stats, the one that really stands out is that the Clippers only had four players in double figures in each of the first three games but had seven players in double figures in the most recent one, which they won.
The Clippers have a balanced veteran roster, but really only have one guy (Paul George) who is going to consistently give you big nights scoring. The Clippers have plenty of guys (especially now that Norman Powell is back) who can give you a big night on occasion but George is really the engine of the offense with Kawhi Leonard out.
In the game the Pels lost, they allowed Marcus Morris to score 22 points, Ivica Zubac had 16 and Luke Kennard had 14 off the bench. Paul George can go for 27 points (as he did in the Pels win back in November) but it won’t matter if the Pels can keep their role players from having big games.
That’s why I would just put Herb Jones on Paul George and let him go to work without help. The Pels can’t double George and let the other role players get off, as that is how the Clippers will win.
Even if Paul George has a big night, the Pelicans should able to stay with them if they can just keep guys like Reggie Jackson, Morris, Zubac, Terrance Mann and Kennard from having big nights as well.
The Pelicans need to make Paul George score 40 points to beat them, and if that happens, you tip your cap to him, but they can’t get beaten by the likes of Marcus Morris and Luke Kennard.