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A Rivers Runs Through It: Clippers vs. Pelicans Preview

The Clippers make their only appearance in the Smoothie King Center Friday and...oh hey look it's Austin Rivers!

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Hey Austin! How have you been, man? California treating you well? It's weird seeing you wearing the red, white and blue. Things and circumstances have certainly changed since your new team and old team met back early last month huh?

Back on December 6, the Pelicans got housed in the Staples Center 120-100. As was the case in the Pelicans first game against the Nuggets this season, the offense should have scored enough points to walk away with a win. Instead, again, the New Orleans defense ranged between "bad" and "nonexistent."

Anthony Davis had a bizarre night: yes he scored 26 points on 60 percent shooting and made eight of his nine free throws, but he only collected three rebounds. When's that ever happened? For whatever reason, Davis just didn't come down with the ball when it was up in the air. Consider this, of all his teammates Davis only collected more rebounds than Dante Cunningham and John Salmons, both of whom had two. Davis wasn't a shell of himself that night he was just...half of himself if that makes sense.

The rest of the New Orleans roster had productive nights. Omer Asik had a double-double, Tyreke Evans did a little bit of everything (13 points, six rebounds and four assists), Ryan Anderson pitched in 16 points off the bench and shot 50 pecent from the floor. Heck, Luke Babbit knocked four of his five three pointers.

The Pelicans were pretty good offensively, but the Clippers were much better. You know what didn't help Anthony Davis' rebounding numbers? DeAndre Jordan gobbling up 18 of them by himself. Chris Paul's night blew Jrue Holiday's out of the water (18 points and 16 assists compared to 7 points and 6 assists). Good thing Jrue will have a chance to avenge himself...wait...never mind. Blake Griffin did Blake Griffin things: 30 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and he got to the free throw line 15 times, knocking down 10. For the night, Los Angeles shot 55/53/70. The Pelicans shot 47/34/64.

Fighting With One Arm Tied Behind Your Back

How can facing Chris Paul and Blake Griffin without Jrue Holiday and potentially Anthony Davis be considered fair? Winning this game was going to be a tall order with the two of them fully healthy. Now trying to do it with, at best, an Anthony Davis 48 hours removed from a pulled groin? Good luck with that one. If Davis can't go what's the starting lineup look like? Evans-Gordon-Pondexter-Cunningham-Asik? Does Babbit get called back to starting or will Monty elect to go with a twin tower look with Alex Ajinca if Davis can't go? I'm genuinely curious to see how Monty Williams plays this.

Three Keys to Victory

1. Control the Glass: The Clippers do a lot of things well. Like, a lot of things well. But they are not a good rebounding team. Nay, they are not even a mediocre rebounding team. Remember how I said DeAndre Jordan collected 18 rebounds in early December? That was just about half of the Clippers total for the game. The Pelicans owned a 45-38 edge in that category. Chris Paul can't run L.A.'s offense if he doesn't have the ball right? New Orleans is going to have to try their hardest to come away with every single rebound. That can happen right?

2. Beat Up on the Bench While You Can: the Clippers definition of depth coming off the bench is "Jamal Crawford and a bunch of dudes." Am I crazy for thinking that, at full strength, New Orleans might have the slightest edge in terms of depth? In case I'm wrong let's just pretend I never said that okay? Either way, the Pelicans need to take advantage when Paul, Griffin and Jordan are catching their breath. Ryan Anderson and Luke Babbitt, assuming he comes off the bench, will need to improve on their game from the previous encounter. I believe that's called "giving 110 percent."

3. Keep Pace Offensively: Lob City is a force offensively. They're the number one team in offensive rating (113.6) and fourth in points per game (107.0) and they're about to take on a mediocre, at best, defense missing possibly their two best defenders. So yeah they're probably going to get theirs on the offensive end. It'll be up to New Orleans to keep up. Luckily the Clippers can, relatively speaking at least, be had defensively. They're 14th in defensive rating (106.0) and 18th in points allowed (99.8). So who knows, maybe they come out with a "NOBODY BELIEVES IN US" attitude and takes it out on L.A.

Bonus Key No. 4 Don't Get Dunked On: This is more a key to life than anything else. Look, the Clippers are really good and the Pelicans could be down their two best players, let's just call this what it is. There's a lot more shame in getting posterized than losing a game. I'm most concerned that Nate Wolters is going to try being a hero and attempt to draw a charge when Griffin or Jordan come charging down the lane. Just get out the way, bruh. All you'll do is show the world you're a fool and YouTube will have it's newest sensation.