The Pelicans Took Down The Clippers To Earn The 8-Seed In The Western Conference Playoffs

For the first time since 2018, the New Orleans Pelicans are headed to the NBA playoffs. The Pelicans took on the Paul George-less Los Angeles Clippers in the final Western Conference play-in game on Friday night, and in one of the most exciting games we’ve seen under the league’s nascent play-in format, New Orleans was able to walk into Crypto.com Arena and earn a 105-101 win that punched their ticket to the postseason.

The Pelicans boasted an eight-point lead at the end of the first quarter thanks in large part to the stellar play of Brandon Ingram. While the Clipper offense really struggled to get anything to fall — the team shot 36 percent from the floor and 9.1 percent from three in the opening 12 minutes — Ingram was outrageously good, scoring 16 points on 8-for-9 shooting with three rebounds and a pair of assists.

While Ingram was not quite able to continue his torrid form during the second quarter — he only had two points in the frame — the Pelicans didn’t ever seem particularly uncomfortable. Five unanswered points to end the quarter gave the Clippers a more manageable deficit at the half, but New Orleans still lead, 56-46. Ingram’s 18 led the way for the Pelicans, while Los Angeles got a combined 25 points over the first 24 minutes from Reggie Jackson and Marcus Morris.

Things changed dramatically at the start of the third. Los Angeles came out of the locker room and immediately went on a 7-0 run, with Jackson and Morris leading the way once more.

The Clipper offense just kept coming, as the team went small and started to give the Pelican defense headaches. Eventually, Jackson was able to give the team its first lead since the first half by beating C.J. McCollum off the bounce and getting to the rim.

Los Angeles just completely dominated New Orleans on both ends of the floor in the third, going on a 34-6 run and winning the quarter by 20 points. Once again, the stars of the show were Jackson and Morris, who both scored 11 points in the frame.

But the Pelicans did not relent. Early on in the fourth quarter, the team responded to the Clippers scoring the first three points by ripping off an 11-0 run to get themselves within two immediately upon Nic Batum, whose pesky defense gave them issues all night, heading to the bench. And after Robert Covington split a pair of free throws, McCollum pulled up from deep off of an offensive rebound to tie things up at 88.

Back and forth the two teams went down the stretch — if things weren’t shot-for-shot, everything that happened seemed to get an eventual response. With the game tied at 94, the Pelicans ripped off seven consecutive points … only for Los Angeles to respond by scoring five in a row and keeping things tight.

After a stretch in the final minute where the only points came at the free throw line for both teams, Larry Nance Jr. stepped to the charity stripe with the Pelicans holding onto a three-point lead with a hair under 20 seconds remaining, only to miss both of his attempts. New Orleans opted to foul right away once the Clippers got the ball out of a timeout, with Norman Powell splitting his shots. And after the Clippers tried to force a turnover instead of committing an immediate foul, Ingram found Jonas Valanciunas wide open under the hoop for the dagger.

Ingram’s 30 points, six rebounds, and six assists led the way for New Orleans, with McCollum adding 19 points and both Nance and Trey Murphy scoring 14 off the bench. Jackson and Morris each scored 27 for the Clippers, while Powell had 17 and Robert Covington provided 14.

The Pelicans will now advance to the playoffs, where they have quite the tall task awaiting them in the Phoenix Suns. Game 1 of their series tips off on Sunday night at 9 p.m. ET on TNT.