Without Anthony Davis or Blake Griffin, one figured today's matinee in Los Angeles was going to be dull and boring. Funny how often general sentiment can get it wrong!
The first quarter started promisingly. The Pelicans led 17-11 entering the first timeout, having hit 7-12 from the floor and 3-5 from downtown. Following the quick break, the Clippers ran off 8 straight points to seize the lead; however, the Pelicans were able to recover, thanks to several bad Clipper turnovers, and finished the quarter on a 7-0 run of their own. They led 24-19, and Ryan Anderson was the leading scorer with 9 points on 4-6 shooting.
The Pelicans opened up the second quarter on fire, building an 11-point lead, but it wasn't meant to be. New Orleans went cold while Austin Rivers started carving up the Pel's defense. With 8:10 remaining, the score was tied again. Three minutes later, the Pelicans found themselves down 8 points. The lulls happen practically ever game, the only question is at what point will they come?
After that 3-5 start from three-point range, the Pelicans finished the half missing their next 10 attempts. Following the 5:41 mark of the first quarter, New Orleans made only 30.3% of their field goal attempts. A much stronger performance from the free throw line was the only reason they trailed the Clippers by just a 56-49 margin at halftime.
The start of the second half saw Anderson break the dry spell from downtown and the Pelicans quickly cut the deficit to 2 points. The Clippers responded by going to Mbah a Moute, of course, via a number of pretty dimes by Chris Paul that led to easy lay-ins. With the score 65-58, the L.A. would widen the gap the rest of the frame on nothing more than secondary breakdowns in the Pelicans defense. The Pelicans did close-out the quarter on a mini 4-point run to reduce the deficit to single figures.
The final frame saw the Clippers start with a patented 4-point play by Jamal Crawford, yet, the Pelicans decided to not slink away, cutting the lead to 5 with just under 8 minutes to play. Following a Holiday three, New Orleans found themselves down just 2 points with over 3 minutes to go.
After New Orleans failed to tie or take the lead on five straight possessions, it seemed the Pelicans were destined for another loss with J.J. Redick shooting two free throws. However, he missed the second one, Holiday received the pass from out-of-bounds, and on a three-point attempt, he was fouled by Austin Rivers. Holiday calmly sank all three free throws.
During the extra period, Cunningham hit a big three-pointer to give the Pelicans a momentary lead and partially redeem all his misses in the fourth quarter. Moments later Holiday helped the Pelicans reclaim the lead on a deuce from the elbow; however, the Clippers sank two consecutive three-pointers, one by Wesley Johnson and the other by Paul to effectively ice the game. Although New Orleans kept hope alive by sending Clippers continually to the free throw line, where they nearly missed as many as they made on the night, it wasn't enough. Anderson missed a potentially game-tying three to force a second extra period.
Jrue Holiday led the Pelicans with 29 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals. Tyreke Evans was solid in support with 26 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists and 2 threes. Anderson finished with a double-double of 16 points and 10 rebounds.
Atoning for the recent New Year's Eve contest, Chris Paul led the Clippers with 25 points, 3 threes, 11 assists, 5 rebounds and 3 steals. Crawford added 21 points and 3 threes.