The tests keep coming. After disposing of the Heat and Nets, the Pelicans face what is likely their biggest challenge yet, an incredibly hot Clipper squad. They are 13-1 in their last 14 games including two 2 wins over the Pels, a 32 point drubbing in New Orleans and a nearly as impressive win in Los Angeles.
In both losses, the Clippers dominated from the tip. From Blake Griffin in the post, to Jamal Crawford from beyond the arc to DeAndre Jordan on the glass, the Pelicans have shown remotely no answer in stopping any part of their attack. Oh and yeah, they still have Chris Paul.
It's a tall order and pretty inconceivable to stop L.A. entirely, but the Pels must significantly slow down something. The best bet would probably be to limit Jordan's influence in the game. Either get the big man into foul trouble or don't allow him to get a bunch of offensive rebounds, thereby getting him more engaged on both ends of the floor. In our prior two meetings, Alexis Ajinca and Greg Stiemsma each drew a start. Both times, whoever drew the start was completely ineffective yet the one off the bench was not. Monty doesn't have an easy decision.
3 things to watch:
- Anthony Davis' Learning Curve. In the two recent losses, Griffin thoroughly outplayed Davis. But coming into tonight, Davis is flying higher than pretty much everyone else in the NBA. Although his 28+ points scored game streak came to an end against the Nets, his confidence is still brimming. Best case scenario is Davis continues to provide the offense and rebounds, but he figures out a way to deal with Griffin's strength using his length to give his counterpart problems.
- Can Tyreke Evans Stay Hot? In the last matchup, Evans had 22 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists. No doubt about it, the Pelicans are going to need something similar to offset the Clippers incredible firepower.
- Free Throw Rate. In the last 15 games, the Pelicans have had the higher FT rate. The problem is they give their opponents the same amount of opportunities from the charity stripe as to where the Clippers do not. The Pelicans need to a few categories to go in their favor, when the game is still in reach, and winning the battle of personal fouls would go a long way.