Brandon Ingram, Pelicans Top Clippers with Paul George Out to Claim West's No. 8 SeedApril 16, 2022
The New Orleans Pelicans are back in the NBA playoffs for the first time since 2018 after defeating the Los Angeles Clippers 105-101 in the second round of the NBA play-in tournament Friday at Crypto.com Arena.
Despite not having Zion Williamson at their disposal, the Pelicans overpowered a shorthanded Clippers side that was missing Paul George, who was placed in the NBA's health and safety protocols, and Kawhi Leonard, who has missed the entire season while recovering from a partially torn ACL.
However, with teams like the Phoenix Suns, Memphis Grizzlies and Golden State Warriors prepared to make deep runs in the postseason, it's unlikely the Pelicans move beyond the first round without Williamson.
That said, here's a deeper look at Friday's win.
Reggie Jackson, PG, LAC: 27 PTS, 7 REB, 8 AST, 2 STL, 1 BLK
Brandon Ingram, SF, NOP: 30 PTS, 6 REB, 6 AST
Marcus Morris Sr., SF, LAC: 27 PTS, 9 REB, 5 AST
CJ McCollum, SG, NOP: 19 PTS, 2 REB, 3 AST, 1 BLK
Norman Powell, PF, LAC: 17 PTS, 4 REB, 1 STL, 1 BLK
Larry Nance Jr., PF, NOP: 14 PTS, 16 REB, 4 AST, 1 STL, 1 BLK
Brandon Ingram, Larry Nance Jr. Combine to Lead Pelicans Past Clippers
Ingram was undoubtedly the Pelicans' best player Friday night, finishing with 30 points, six rebounds and six assists on 14 of 21 shooting from the floor.
Ingram's performance did not come as a surprise. He had been one of New Orleans' best performers during the regular season, averaging 22.7 points, 5.8 rebounds and 5.6 assists while shooting 46.1 percent from the floor and 32.7 percent from deep.
Brandon Ingram finishes strong at the rack in <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PhantomCam?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#PhantomCam</a><br><br>18 PTS in the 1st Half<a href="https://twitter.com/PelicansNBA?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@PelicansNBA</a> 56 | Clippers 46<br>Halftime in the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/MetaQuestPlayIn?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#MetaQuestPlayIn</a> <a href="https://t.co/UYMcGo6lWT">pic.twitter.com/UYMcGo6lWT</a>
However, New Orleans also got incredible performances from the supporting cast in the second half, including Larry Nance Jr., who finished with 14 points, 16 rebounds and four assists.
Performances from CJ McCollum, Herbert Jones and Trey Murphy III should also not be overlooked. The trio was a significant factor for the Pelicans in the second half, and New Orleans wouldn't be moving on without them.
These types of team performances from the Pelicans have become common this season in the absence of Zion Williamson, who is still recovering from foot surgery.
However, considering the Pelicans struggled with the Clippers, it's hard to imagine they'll get past the No. 1 seed Phoenix Suns without Williamson, who, according to ESPN's Brian Windhorst likely won't play in a series against Phoenix.
Clippers Struggle in Paul George's Absence
The Clippers unsurprisingly struggled in George's absence Friday night. Reggie Jackson and Marcus Morris Sr. were the team's highest scorers, both finishing with 27 points, but L.A. was outplayed by the Pelicans all night.
However, Friday's loss to the Pelicans capped a season in which the Clippers exceeded expectations. In addition to George being in and out of the lineup, Kawhi Leonard didn't appear in a single game while recovering from a partially torn ACL.
Morris, Terance Mann and Jackson did much of the heavy lifting for the Clippers this year, but without an elite talent like George or Leonard, L.A. was not destined to make a deep postseason run had they made it there.
With the Clippers season over, they can begin preparing for the 2022-23 campaign, which should see the return of a healthy George and Leonard.
If both players can remain healthy, the Clips stand a chance in an increasingly difficult Western Conference next year. However, based on the team's performance on Friday against the Pelicans, it's clear some roster moves need to be made if the Clippers want to contend.
The Pelicans will move on to face the No. 1 seed Phoenix Suns in the first round of the 2022 NBA playoffs.