Zion Williamson, Lonzo Ball Power Pelicans to Rout of Kawhi Leonard, Clippers

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistMarch 15, 2021

New Orleans Pelicans center Jaxson Hayes (10) celebrates a score and getting fouled by Los Angeles Clippers guard Terance Mann (14) in the first half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Sunday, March 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)
Matthew Hinton/Associated Press

The New Orleans Pelicans earned a 135-115 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday at home inside Smoothie King Center.

New Orleans headed into the All-Star break having dropped five of its last six games. Now, Stan Van Gundy's squad is 2-0 in the second half and appears to be rejuvenated from the time off.

The Pelicans jumped ahead early thanks to a 36-point opening quarter and then dropped 43 in the third frame to eliminate any doubt about the outcome.

Brett Martel @brettmartel

#Clippers appear to be capitulating based on their lineup to open the 4th. Kennard, Coffey, Oturu, Mann, Patterson. They have a game tomorrow night (at DAL) and trail by 27 in the 4th

Zion Williamson, Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram all enjoyed 20-point nights, and New Orleans' bench combined to score 49. New Orleans as a team shot a scintillating 65.4 percent from the field and knocked down 12 of its 26 three-pointers.

StatMuse @statmuse

The Pelicans shot 65.4% vs the Clippers tonight. That’s the highest FG% in a game this season and only the third time a team has reached the 65% mark in the last 5 seasons. https://t.co/gOcjA35A60


Notable Performers

Lonzo Ball, PG, Pelicans: 20 points (7-10 FG, 5-8 3PT), eight rebounds, five assists, one steal

Zion Williamson, PF, Pelicans: 27 points (13-16 FG), five assists, two rebounds

Kawhi Leonard, SF, Clippers: 23 points (9-13 FG, 2-4 3PT), five rebounds, two assists, two steals

Paul George, SG, Clippers: 15 points (5-14 FG, 1-8 3PT), three rebounds, three assists, one steal


Zion Overwhelms Clippers Inside

The Clippers drew up the blueprint for exactly how not to stop Williamson in the paint.

The 2021 All-Star was unstoppable around the basket. It basically came down to the fact that Los Angeles didn't have anybody on the roster who could individually match up with the 6'7", 284-pound forward.

Tony Jones @Tjonesonthenba

Zion Williamson about to create jobs for people in the next 10 years. The league has gone so small that there is hardly anyone at his position that has a hope of stopping him. Teams gonna be signing Brandon Bass types again

His combination of speed and power was simply too much, whether he was scoring himself or feeding open teammates.

FOXSports NewOrleans @FOXSportsNOLA

Zion and the Klaw are going at it 👀 @PelicansNBA | #WontBowDown https://t.co/TErjRGzBEb

New Orleans Pelicans @PelicansNBA

Point Zion 😳 https://t.co/2X0c4YRUWI

Although it doesn't appear the Pelicans are desperate to offload him, Bleacher Report's Jake Fischer reported Ball "has been widely discussed in preliminary trade conversations this winter." The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor reported a week later that trade discussions "have fizzled for now."

Ball, a restricted free agent in the summer, displayed why he should continue to be in New Orleans' future plans.

New Orleans Pelicans @PelicansNBA

Our guy @ZO2_ getting us started with a triple 🔥 https://t.co/lDjuNtBlnT

FOXSports NewOrleans @FOXSportsNOLA

That Lonzo and Zion connection is getting better every night 🔥🔥 @PelicansNBA | #WontBowDown https://t.co/w9tBh2fipg

New Orleans Pelicans @PelicansNBA

.@ZO2_ goes the distance and picks up the foul! #Pelicans by 27 and counting https://t.co/ekx1hdAYZ3

While you're here, spare a thought for Reggie Jackson, who was in the wrong place at the wrong time as Jaxson Hayes threw down a thunderous dunk.


UP OVER THE TOP, JAXSON HAYES! 💥😤 📺: ESPN https://t.co/zg1Ddaq6YS

By the letter of the law, Hayes' taunting warranted a technical foul. But you can't blame him for savoring the posterization.


Clippers Defense Takes the Night Off

Even the best teams have a bad night at the office on occasion. The Clippers entered this game short-handed as well, with knee soreness keeping Patrick Beverley out of action. Then Serge Ibaka was limited to eight minutes after experiencing lower back tightness.

But this performance rises to somewhat concerning levels when considering Los Angeles closed out the first half by losing four of its last five games.

The Clippers played flat to start Sunday night, and that set the tone for the rest of their outing.

Brad Turner @BA_Turner

Clippers sloppy with ball, turning it over 5 times already. Clippers defense horrible, allowing Pelicans to shoot 68.8% from the field. Thus Clippers down 31-19.

Fans know how good this squad can be at its best, which makes the inconsistency all the more inexplicable.

Law Murray 🌍 @LawMurrayTheNU

The Clippers allow an NBA-season high 65.4% field goal percentage in New Orleans, and give up their most points all season. Pelicans win 135-115, Clippers are in Dallas tomorrow, and they will have gone a month without back-to-back wins.

The front office almost certainly won't do anything to drastically alter the roster in the middle of the season. Especially if Ibaka's back injury proves to be troublesome, general manager Michael Winger and president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank might have to weigh some minor reinforcements before the March 25 trade deadline, though.


What's Next?

The Clippers are back in action Monday against the Dallas Mavericks and have a return game with the Mavs in Dallas on Wednesday. The Pelicans hit the road for a pair of games with the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday and Thursday.