Clippers cannot overcome Zion Williamson, fall to Pelicans, 112-104

Pelicans shorten gap between the Clippers, as Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are not enough in New Orleans.

NEW ORLEANS — It seemed as if the Clippers were finally hitting their stride offensively after Thursday’s win in Chicago, but this was another big test on the schedule. Unfortunately, Zion WIlliamson proved to be the catalyst in a game where the Clippers stepped up offensively once again. Paul George and Kawhi Leonard combined for 49 points in the absence of James Harden, but the Pelicans’ bench kept the pressure on the defense throughout. In a back and forth battle of runs in the second half, New Orleans ended up going on a mini run to close out the game and send the Clippers back home.

The Clippers are now 42-24 and the 4th seed in the Western Conference, only two games ahead of the Pelicans.

Here are my three takeaways:

Over his last five games, George is averaging 24 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists on 59% field goals and 53% from three point range. After 28 points on an insane 11/12 shooting, he racked up 26 points on 10/21 shooting on Friday, continuing his hot streak on the offensive end. While the team has been struggling, this is the player the Clippers are going to need in the playoffs for them to make any type of run, healthy or not. 

We all know the athleticism that Williamson presents to any defense, but there is a reason that the Clippers have had their struggles against New Orleans for about five years now: size and athletic ability. Zion finished with 34 points on 14/21 shooting, and no matter who the Clippers threw at him, he scored at will.

 PJ Tucker had his best game as a Clipper, defensively and offensively, but even he couldn’t contain Zion, while Kawhi Leonard struggled to keep up with the burst and lateral quickness. These are the exact type of matchup problems that Clipper fans should be worried about if these two matchup in the playoffs. 

Norm has been known to be able to tough out some injuries, and even after staying in the game, Powell looked extra gimpy after being rolled up on. Powell was so frustrated that he took his shoe off and threw it to the bench in disgust. The tough competitor that he is, Norm stayed in and finished the game, however postgame, he had his lower leg iced and crutches nearby, according to Law Murray of The Athletic. 

While he is a leading candidate for the Sixth Man of the Year Award, the Clippers themselves need his offensive production and dynamic scoring late in games. If he is to miss a good amount of time, life could get much tougher to finish the year. 

The Clippers will now head back home to take on the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday. Tipoff is set for 6:30 PM PST in Los Angeles.