Clippers shoot their way past short-handed Pelicans – Daily Bulletin

LOS ANGELES — The Staples Center stage was set up for a clash of styles and, on Wednesday night, a stark difference of fortunes.

Fully staffed at the outset, the favored Clippers avoided the trappings of life against an undermanned underdog, getting past a pesky New Orleans Pelicans team that was down three starters, including superstar sophomore Zion Williamson.

“When you have a lot of talent sometimes, you can fall victim to that, but we just got to make sure we’re just taking advantage of every day, every game, every practice and trying to get better,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said before his team’s 111-106 victory.

“Our main focus,” Lue insisted, “is us getting better each night, not about the opponent.”

That “professional focus,” as Lue termed it, has been a willed skill that’s required nurturing, to hear Ivica Zubac tell it.

“We come out with the same mindset,” the center said, before revising that statement slightly: “We try to come out with the same mindset – ever since that Dallas game (a franchise-worst 51-point loss).

“We know we’re going to get the best shot from every team, every night and we’re prepared for it. … I think we got better at that from last year, but we can still be better at that.”

It won’t hurt to lodge victories such as Wednesday’s against the Pelicans, who, despite being shorthanded, played their part admirably.

Coach Stan Van Gundy’s squad dominated the boards, 48-36 – fully in character for the team that showed up Wednesday with a league-best rebounding percentage of 54.1 percent.

The Pelicans also did their requisite damage in the paint, outscoring their hosts down low, 52-20.

And they got a boost from second-year guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker, who flourished in his first start of the season, leading the Pelicans with 37 points (on 15-for-23 shooting) and eight rebounds, both career highs.

But those areas of success weren’t enough against the NBA’s top 3-point shooting team (L.A. is shooting 42.9 percent from deep), which continued to drive, kick and connect from distance – going 18 for 37 against New Orleans.

“I just think taking the right 3s, playing the right way, is the biggest thing for us,” said Lue, whose players excelled at setting up one another Wednesday, assisting on 26 of their 35 made baskets. “We really had the ball hopping tonight early on and we still had some possessions in the second half where the ball was moving as well. We just got to continue to play in the right way through the game.”

While the Pelicans (4-6) shot 10 for 28 from deep, half of the Clippers’ shots originated from behind the arc, and six Clippers connected on multiple 3s. George was responsible for five of them – the ninth time this season he’s hit four or more in a game and the seventh time he made at least five.

“Just shooting it with confidence and really just knowing the shots I’ma get, so I knew what to look for, I know what to expect, I know how the shots are coming,” George said.

Kawhi Leonard led the Clippers with 28 points and nine assists, and George weaved his way through New Orleans’ defense for a typically pretty assortment of baskets, scoring 27 points on shot-making that included a fourth-quarter layup, flipped off the top of the backboard, as well as the 3-pointer as time expired in the first half.

That first-half-finishing trey punctuated a 21-4 run and ended with George falling backward into the arms of Serge Ibaka, who wrapped him in a bear hug and carried him off the court, their lead 18 points.




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