It was a Clippers game in New Orleans, which meant the two most apt words to describe another Pelicans victory were, again, big and easy.
And it all stemmed from another first half in which Clippers points were, again, few and difficult to come by.
New Orleans’ 113-89 win was its fourth consecutive against the Clippers at Smoothie King Center — and fifth straight overall — by double digits, and if that seems like an uncomfortable trend, it has nothing on the way the Clippers’ offense sputtered for a second straight game before halftime.
A 28-point first half Tuesday against Denver set the stage for a dramatic 25-point comeback, marking only the third time this season in 21 tries that the Clippers have won after trailing entering the fourth quarter.
But while Thursday’s 36-point first half beget a 27-point hole 26 minutes in, there was no rally to save them as coach Tyronn Lue played backups for much of the fourth quarter. They brought the Clippers within 13 points with seven minutes to play, but the Pelicans kept their starters in until the final minutes to ultimately drop the Clippers to below .500 again, at 21-22.
“Just didn’t have a lot of juice tonight,” coach Tyronn Lue said.
Terance Mann scored a team-high 15 points, while Brandon Ingram’s 24 points led six Pelicans (16-26) scoring in double figures.
Eric Bledsoe, the backup guard who sparked Tuesday’s fourth-largest comeback in Clippers history, didn’t have a chance at an encore against his former team, playing only nine minutes, including just 80 seconds after halftime. He finished with three points. This game was essentially decided that early.
Trailing 13-2 after missing nine of their first 11 shots, including their first five three-pointers, Lue replaced center Ivica Zubac with Mann for an all-small lineup used together for all of three minutes this season, featuring Nicolas Batum, Marcus Morris, Reggie Jackson and Amir Coffey. The grouping created more downhill drives, but few points. Four minutes later, trailing 24-7, Lue called his second timeout.
The quarter resembled a rerun of Tuesday’s start against Denver — just five made baskets, including one three-pointer. By halftime, the comparison to Tuesday’s league-worst, 28-point first half remained apt, with the Clippers trailing by 19 after scoring just 36 points on 26% shooting, while committing more turnovers and grabbing fewer rebounds.
The kind of offensive efficiency, or lack thereof, had the look of a troubling outlier, representing the first time this season the Clippers have failed to break 40 points by halftime in consecutive games. But it also fits into the larger picture of the team’s offensive woes. Entering Thursday, the Clippers ranked 26th in offensive rating, scoring 104.8 points per 100 possessions in the 10 games since leading scorer Paul George began an extended rest for his injured shooting elbow.
Yet even before George’s injury, they ranked 25th with a 105.9 offensive rating. The factors range from an inability to make open shots during the season’s first weeks to more longer-term issues holding onto the ball and rebounding. Thursday featured a confluence of all of them.
The Pelicans outrebounded the Clippers by 11, committed nine fewer turnovers and shot 44% to the Clippers’ 38%.
New Orleans made 16 shots at the rim — the Clippers took 16 shots at the rim.