New Orleans (16-27) suffered an unexpected fourth-quarter meltdown Saturday afternoon that ended woefully in a 133-130 home loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.
Derrick Favors and Lonzo Ball still made their presence felt early. Ball scored 10 points in the first quarter after making four of his first five shots while Favors opened 4-for-4 in the frame. It was a promising start for the Pelicans, but seven turnovers in twelve minutes takes away from a unit’s rhythm no matter how hot it is. Not to mention, Clippers superstar Kawhi Leonard scored 15 quick points in the same span.
The young guns started to step up, though. Nickeil Alexander-Walker closed in on double figures early, Frank Jackson made his first two three-point attempts (his only 3PAs) and Jaxson Hayes set a new career high in assists during the all first half.
In the same span, Los Angeles managed to get 27 free throw attempts in just 24 minutes. Lou Williams dropped 14 points in the second quarter alone, with 11 coming at the charity stripe, but an unexpected Pelican similarly started working his way to the line later on.
The Pelicans led by as many as nine prior to the break, and a 45-point second quarter carried them to a franchise-record tying 80-point half. The previous record was 72 points also set against the Los Angeles Clippers. New Orleans was converting over 60 percent from the field and 50 percent from three at the break with an eight-point lead in pocket.
Hayes, in addition to the career-high four assists, also drew a career-high 12 free throw attempts. The rookie center had six attempts in the first half and another six in the third quarter, living at the line with only three credited FGA on the afternoon. Leonard passed the 30-point mark in the third, but the Clippers couldn’t gain any ground in a dead even quarter.
The same eight-point advantage didn’t prove to be fortunate. However, gaining ground was a different story for Los Angeles in the final frame. The Clippers started the fourth quarter on an 8-0 run to tie things up at 110-110. Ultimately, New Orleans was held to 20 points, their lowest-scoring quarter of the game.
12-straight missed threes in the second half, 21 total turnovers and 13 missed free throws will make winning tough for any franchise on any type of night. When shots stopped falling, New Orleans simply wasn’t able to settle in, get the necessary stops or limit hustle plays against the grittier team.
“That’s what hurt,” Favors said. “It’s the missed free throws we had, that one rebound at the end. You have to give them credit. They’re a good team, but I think that’s what hurt us the most.”
Ball, who finished with his third triple-double in a Pelicans uniform, snapped the dry spell from behind the arc with 1:10 left to cut the Los Angeles lead to 130-127. Sweet Lou seemed to hit the three-point dagger off a Patrick Beverley offensive rebound, but JJ Redick made cause for pause again at 133-130 with 19.5 seconds remaining. Nonetheless, that score stood as the last image on the board. It was something head coach Alvin Gentry had a tough time swallowing as he walked off on postgame media members just 30 seconds into his availability.
Leonard capped his day at 39 points, six rebounds, six dimes and five steals while shooting over 50 percent from the field. Williams wasn’t far off in the scoring department with 32 points and 14 made free throws.
In the encore of this 49-point performance against Utah, Brandon Ingram posted 21 points, seven boards and six assists. Favors scored 22 points on a perfect 10-for-10 shooting night along with 11 rebounds, three assists and a steal. He’s made a franchise-record 19 consecutive field goals dating back to Jan. 16 which is also a career high and the longest streak in the league.
Up next, the Pelicans will travel to Memphis and face Ja Morant and the Grizzlies on MLK Day.