The Clippers have made a gallant late-season push for the playoffs, but after going 1-4 in their past five games they will fall short of their goal. With a 42-38 record they sit in tenth place in the West and are three games out of eighth with just two games to go.
The side they will face on Monday has a little more to play for. New Orleans are in fifth place with a 46-34 record, but where they will finish is still anyone’s guess. They are just one game ahead of Denver in ninth place, and could still feasibly miss the playoffs. On the other side of the coin, however, two wins to finish the season could see the Pelicans catapult into the top four and earn themselves a home series.
Three keys to the game
Pelicans’ offense – New Orleans have been playing at a high pace since the All-Star break, but their offensive rating has subsequently slipped. In the past three games, though, they have found an extra gear as they fight for their playoff spot. They are scoring 119.0 points per 100 possessions in this time, the most in the league, and their lowest score is 122.
Davis in the paint – Davis is one of the best scorers in the league, period, and a large chunk of his points come in the paint. His post All-Star form has been incredible and is highlighted by his paint scoring. He is averaging 17.0 points in there per game since the break, the most in the league and 2.7 points more than any other player who isn’t named LeBron James.
The Clippers’ perimeter shooting – The Clippers current 1-4 stretch has been a disappointing way to end the season, and their 3-point shooting has been a major reason for it. They are taking just 17.6 per game in this time, easily the lowest in the league, which would logically suggest they are taking only good looks and should shoot a higher clip. Not so. They are hitting just 5.4 of them per game for 30.7% efficiency, the third lowest in the league in this time.
Matchup to watch
Anthony Davis vs DeAndre Jordan – Jordan is a good interior defender, but against the more agile Davis he will have his work cut out in this matchup. The Pelicans’ star is virtually unstoppable when he gets going, and will test Jordan’s defense all over the floor. For the season, Davis is putting up 28.2 points on 53.5% shooting, and has shown an ability to stretch the floor with a career-high 34.4% from long range. He also contributes a casual 11.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.5 steals and 2.5 blocks. Good luck, DeAndre.
Jordan himself is averaging a career-high 15.3 rebounds per game to go with his 12.2 points, but Davis’ length and agility will make it difficult for the Clippers’ center to get many good looks on the inside, the only place where he can score. Jordan is a good player and key to the Clippers’ team, but he, like everyone, might have a tough time against Davis.
Los Angeles Clippers predicted starting lineup
PG – Austin Rivers | SG – Tyrone Wallace | SF – Tobias Harris | PF – Wesley Johnson | C – DeAndre Jordan
New Orleans Pelicans predicted starting lineup
PG – Rajon Rondo | SG – Jrue Holiday | SF – E’Twaun Moore | PF – Nikola Mirotic | C – Anthony Davis
Davis has been a huge problem for the Clippers in each of the three games between the sides this season, particularly the last one. In that game, he had 41 points, 13 rebounds, two assists, three steals and four blocks to lead his side to a five-point win. He averages 31 points, 13.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 2.3 steals, and 2.3 blocks against them this season.
This is obscure, but Mirotic’s points total for this game is definitely worth a look at. Oddsmakers have set his over/under total at 15.5 points, roughly in line with his season average. He is starting for the Pelicans now, though, and playing huge minutes, and as a result has scored 25, 31, and 28 points in his last three. He is a great bet to go over his 15.5 point total in this game.
With the motivation the Pelicans have compared to the Clippers for this game, it’s tough to see the home side getting over the line. Davis is almost a certainty to put up 30 points and grab well over ten rebounds, and will be a force on the defensive end. Rondo is coming off a 17 assist game, Holiday is playing great basketball and Mirotic is on fire, and while they don’t have a deep bench, the Pelicans are a dangerous team at the moment. They’ll be too good for a Clippers side with less talent and much less motivation, and will run out 115-106 winners.
The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN. Tip-off is at 10:30pm ET.
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