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NBA Preview: New Orleans Pelicans seek to climb back over .500 against surprising LA Clippers

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The Pels won their first of two contests in two nights, while the Clips faltered in Dallas. Who will take the second game on the second night of the back-to-back?

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Pelicans (12-12) sit exactly where they did one year ago following a decisive ten-point victory over the short-handed Charlotte Hornets. Led by Anthony Davis’ impressive stat line (36/19/8), the Pelicans led nearly throughout, and Alvin Gentry was able to pull the starters with just over four minutes to play.

While the Pelicans finished their game at an earlier than usual time, their opponent tomorrow night, the Los Angeles Clippers, were forced to tangle with the Dallas Mavericks an additional few hours into the night. In addition, none of their starters received any rest in a 114-110 loss that wasn’t decided until Dennis Smith Jr. hit the second of two free-throws with 9.2 seconds remaining.

The Clippers failed to to take down the Mavericks who were without their best player and Rookie of the Year shoe-in Luka Doncic. With 15 wins overall, however, they still sit atop the Western Conference standings, and thus should present quite the test for the Pelicans despite a stout 9-2 home record at the Smoothie King Center.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Clippers have been one of the bigger surprises of the 2018-19 NBA season and are led by head coach and possible Coach of the Year candidate Doc Rivers. Remember, no one expected LA to overcome the losses of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan as easily as they did, but their current roster is a worthy cast.

Led by All-Star candidate Tobias Harris, and his 22 points, nine rebounds on an electric 53% and 44% from three-point range, the Clippers have collected early season victories over the 76ers, Bucks, Warriors, and Blazers, among others. Montrezl Harrell (16 points, seven rebounds in 26 mpg) and Lou Williams (18 points, four assistsin 26 mpg) have made early season claims for the Sixth Man of the Year Award, and their second most utilized lineup of Avery Bradley - Danilo Gallinari - Shai Gilgeous-Alexander - Tobias Harris - Marcin Gortat are an imposing 35 points better than their opposition per 100 possessions.

The Clippers are loaded with talent, and they are healthy. Gallinari is back to peak form, averaging 19 point per game and shooting 47% from three-point range. Boban Marjonavic, Mike Scott and Gortat give the Clippers a lot of bodies and fouls to throw at Anthony Davis, who needed 41 minutes to stop the Clippers alongside a healthy Elfrid Payton on October 23rd.

The Clippers are ninth in pace (101.2), fourth in offensive rating, (114.4), and 14th in defensive rating (109.2). The Clippers get their points in the paint (sixth), at the free-point stripe (first) and beyond the three point line (second) as well as being fourth in shooting efficiency. Harris, Gallinari and Harrell help make scoring points a breeze for a unit that scores more points than all but two teams in the NBA. Defensively, while they are 22nd in opponent scoring, they hold their opponent to the the very best efficiency rating in the NBA (1.052). The Pelicans will need to punish them in transition (23rd) and in the paint (22nd) and will need to limit additional opportunities. Luckily for them, the Clippers are bottom ten in rebounding, and 30th in creating turnovers.

The Pelicans will need a big game from both Davis as well as Jrue Holiday. Renowned for his backcourt tenacity on the defensive end, Avery Bradley has taken a step back, and freely offers the lane to quicker point guards, and those with better handles. Lou Williams has been off the mark with his efficiency (39/30%) and is a turnstile defensively. The Pelicans could struggle to limit Gallinari and Harris, but can focus their efforts on group rebounding when Harrell is on the court, limiting his effectiveness and second-chance opportunities.

Injury Report

The Clippers will be without wing-stopper Luc Mbah a Moute, who will miss his 17th game this season with a sore left knee. Jerome Robinson, the Clippers 13th overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, will likewise sit with a sore foot injury, his 13th missed game of the season.

With a healthy Avery Bradley returning to the lineup though, the Clippers rotation will likely include Harrell and Williams in addition to Sindarius Thornwell, Pat Beverley, Marjanovic, and Mike Scott. Gee, wouldn’t it be nice to see the Clippers deal Milos Teodosic to the Pelicans, since, you know, they aren’t using him? It would be nice to have the option to grab Ty Wallace too, but after making the restricted free agent an offer over the summer, New Orleans cannot trade for him for a period of one year.

The Pelicans will once again be without Elfrid Payton (finger), but may have access E’Twaun Moore (Left Tibial Contusion), who was listed as questionable leading up to the Pelicans’ contest with the Hornets on Sunday afternoon.

Head-to-Head

The Pelicans are 30-25 lifetime against the Clippers, having won five of their past six, and last defeated the Clippers on October 23rd, 116-109 with a healthy squad. Let’s hope they don’t need the whole unit to do it again!

Let’s geaux, Pels!

Where To Watch

What: New Orleans Pelicans vs Los Angeles Clippers

Where: Smoothie King Center

When: Monday, December 3, 2018, 7:00 p.m. Central

How: FSNO, 99.5 FM WRNO