A shorthanded New Orleans Pelicans squad (4-6) fell to the Los Angeles Clippers (8-4) at Staples Center last night 111-106. Despite winning more quarters of the game than they lost, the Pelicans’ dismal 15 point second quarter ultimately did them in. Even being down more than a few of their key players, they had a second half surge, led by a career high 37 points from Nickeil Alexander-Walker, and put a bit of a scare into the Clippers.
STAR OF THE GAME:
The KLAW gets the game ball for this one. He had a team high 28 points to go along with 6 rebounds, 9 assists, and 2 steals. Just another night at the office for Kawhi Leonard, but LA does not come away with this win if it were not for his play. He had several key baskets down the stretch to help seal the game after the Pelicans started to make it close, along with his always stout defense. Games like this are why they pay him the big bucks. When the Pelicans looked liked they were ready to steal the game, good ol’ #2 said “not tonight” and got things under control. Could’ve maybe given it to Paul George with his 27 points and 5 three pointers, but he was -4 out there, whilst Kawhi was a team and game high +10.
The team’s ability to hold on to leads is a nagging concern. We do not need to be reminded about how last season ended for them, but it has to be said in this instance as it has proven to be a consistent issue with this team. The Clippers had over a 20 point lead last Friday night against the Warriors and absolutely fell apart. After building a 20 point lead in this game, it looked like for a minute that this one was going to be a repeat of that. The team gets ahead and then grows complacent, takes their feet off the gas and lets leads dwindle away by being careless with the basketball, and taking ill-advised shots (Patrick Beverley, I’m looking at you). This problem is tied to the front office failing to address the team’s biggest need by acquiring a true point guard. They need that playmaker who can calm the team down when adversity sets in and get them in the right spots.
I’d like to give it to a Clipper for this game, but all the contributors were the usual suspects. So no big surprise from them. So I am going to give the nod to the Pelicans, Nickeil Alexander-Walker. This kid went absolutely nuclear in the game, erupting for 37 points, making 15 out of 23 shots. He very nearly willed New Orleans to victory on his own. He was putting up bucket after bucket and at times looked like he could not be stopped. He looked poised and confident out there as well, certainly not looking his age or like the sophomore player he is. Could we be witnessing a star in the making? It may be in his blood, as his cousin, former Clipper Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, has emerged (as every LAC fan knew he would) as a true star and the leader of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Sacramento Kings on Friday, January 15th
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