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NBA Preview: Pelicans likely need good perimeter shooting and strong defense to beat Clippers again

There’s a common denominator in New Orleans’ wins thus far

Los Angeles Clippers v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

The New Orleans Pelicans will try to bounce back tonight from their second-most lopsided defeat of the season by surprising the Los Angeles Clippers once more.

In Saturday’s 127-105 loss to the Utah Jazz, the Pelicans were unable to get three-pointers to drop regularly until the game had gotten away from them.

Looking at the numbers, outside shooting is proving to be a good barometer of New Orleans’ success. When the Pelicans have surpassed 40 percent from three-point range, they are 4-4 on the season. Finishes below that mark are responsible for a 1-13 record.

On November 19, the Pelicans beat the Clippers 94-81 in the team’s best defensive showing of the year, holding L.A. to 26 second-half points. Lost in the shuffle, though, New Orleans made 13 of 30 three-pointers (43.3%).

Good teams find ways to win games even if the shooting is cold. Top-notch defensive efforts should produce a handful of victories. With a 5-17 record overall, obviously New Orleans isn’t in that group yet, helping explain why Willie Green and others often say that the Pelicans margin for error is small. They have to play well in several important facets of the game to emerge with a W.

Sure enough, the Pelicans own a 41.4 3PT% (2nd) and a 97.6 defensive rating (5th) in their five wins, ranking very highly among teams when only factoring victories.

In their 17 losses: New Orleans has a 31.4 3PT% and a 114.7 defensive rating.

After enjoying a seven-game winning streak, the Clippers are entering tonight’s battle having lost five of eight games. It feels like there should be a chance to steal one, but a closer inspection gives pause.

When examining the losses that came at home during this stretch specifically, the Clippers fell to the Bulls, Mavericks and Warriors — teams that have combined for a 41-18 record.

Then there’s the fact that Paul George remains one of the best players in the league, averaging 25.9 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.2 assists and 1.8 steals. After making just 8 of 26 field goals for 19 points against the Pelicans, he’ll be eager to make amends.

So, too, will Reggie Jackson. L.A.’s second-leading scorer on the season had but four points on 2 of 11 shooting in New Orleans 10 days ago.

A win late Monday evening would further spread the belief that the Pelicans are not the same disappointing team that began the season with a lone victory in the first 13 games on the schedule. However, the underdogs are going to have to play really well on several fronts for that to become a reality.

Who: New Orleans Pelicans (5-17) at Los Angeles Clippers (11-9)

When: November 29, 2021, 9:30 pm

Where to watch: Bally Sports New Orleans, League Pass

Where to listen: ESPN 100.3 FM

For more Pelicans talk, subscribe to The Bird Calls podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @OlehKosel.