Eric Gordon Leads Short-Handed Pelicans to Impressive 108-103 Win over Clippers

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Published: January 30, 2015

The Los Angeles Clippers arrived in New Orleans riding a 6-game winning streak to go along with their 32-14 record. Heading into tonight’s game against the Pelicans, they had outscored their opponents by 7.5 points per 100 possessions this season, an average only surpassed by the 36-7 Warriors and 38-8 Hawks. Los Angeles would face a Pelicans team missing its best two players, Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday; without them, New Orleans lost to both the 76ers and Knicks just two weeks ago. In early December, the Pelicans faced this same Clippers team in Los Angeles and lost by 20 with both Davis and Holiday playing. The Clippers’ starting lineup leads the league in minutes played together by a very wide margin, and had outscored opponents by 17.7 points per 100 possessions in that time (839 minutes).

Given all of the above factors, a loss tonight seemed to be a foregone conclusion.

Eric Gordon had other plans.

The Pelicans’ oft-injured shooting guard – the player who was originally the key piece of the trade that sent Chris Paul to the Clippers – played what was, without a shadow of a doubt, his best game throughout his tenure in New Orleans. Gordon’s stat line of 28 points on 20 FGA and 7 assists doesn’t even signify how well he played. Eric Gordon had the ball in his hands at so many crucial points in tonight’s game, and he didn’t disappoint in any of them. He handled the basketball effectively. He distributed excellently. He moved without the ball flawlessly. He earned open looks and routinely knocked them down (5-7 from 3-point range). If the Pelicans were to have any chance at beating a top-3 team in the NBA without their top 2 players, they desperately needed Eric Gordon to play like the guy the team traded for 3 years ago. In every way imaginable, New Orleans got what it needed from Gordon tonight.

Other Notes:

  • Ryan Anderson missed all 6 of his shots in the first quarter, but shooters have to keep shooting, and that’s exactly what he did tonight. Anderson went 6-11 in the final 3 quarters, including 5-8 from 3-point range. He also earned a game-high 7 free throw attempts, making all of them. His 4 offensive rebounds (9 total) were also huge for the Pelicans tonight. Very impressive game for Anderson overall, especially considering the way it started for him.
  • Another great night for Tyreke Evans as a facilitator in this Pelicans offense. Evans finished with 12 assists and only two turnovers, in addition to 11 points and 8 rebounds. Tyreke also led the Pelicans in individual +/-, as New Orleans outscored Los Angeles by a total of 11 points while he was on the court.
  • Alexis Ajinca played an integral part in the Pelicans’ victory tonight, scoring 17 points on 11 shots to go along with 9 rebounds (4 offensive) and 3 blocks. DeAndre Jordan got the better of him a bit too frequently on the Clippers’ side of the ball, but all around a very effective game from him. Ajinca has become so important for this New Orleans team when they’re missing Davis or Anderson, as he possesses valuable scoring ability at the center position that Asik is incapable of providing.
  • Speaking of Asik, it’s easy to rag on him for his poor offense (which was certainly on display tonight), but he did lead the team in net rating tonight, as the Pelicans were playing at a rate of +18.8 points per 100 possessions in his 29 minutes of action. He made an impact defensively, and even dished out a couple of assists. Overall, a better game for Omer than the volume-based stats might lead people to believe.
  • Big-time free throws from Jimmer Fredette to put the game on ice for the Pelicans late in the 4th quarter. For a guy who has seen his playing time fluctuate so much, being able to knock them down with the game on the line was great to see.
  • I got more than a little worried when the Pelicans’ lead started to dwindle in the 4th quarter. As the team always seems to do with decent leads, they drifted away from the ball movement-heavy, efficient offense and reverted to standing around for 15 seconds and then running isolation plays deep into the shot clock. The rationale of using more game time to reduce the number of possessions remaining is a poor one, especially when you consider how much worse the offense performs when this strategy is undertaken. Hopefully, it will change some time soon, but I’m not optimistic. Otherwise, tonight’s game was a finely coached one by Monty Williams. He deserves a ton of credit for having his team ready to play despite being without Jrue and AD.
  • As mentioned above, the Clippers starting lineup of Paul-Redick-Barnes-Griffin-Jordan that has outscored opponents by 17.7 points per 100 possessions this season in a league-leading 839 minutes. Tonight, that unit posted a net rating of -39.0, as the Pelicans outscored them 53-40 in 20 minutes of action. Not bad.
  • The Pelicans collected 14 offensive rebounds against a team that only allows an average of 10 offensive rebounds per game to opponents. Additionally, the Pelicans only turned the ball over 8 times, far fewer than the 14 turnovers per game that the Clippers have forced so far this season. Finally – and likely most importantly – Los Angeles only made 25% of their 3-point attempts, with Redick and Crawford going just 1-11 from beyond the arc combined. Succeeding in these areas is how you beat a team as talented and fundamentally sound as the Clippers.

Ultimately, this game certainly could have gone the other way. Many of the Clippers’ 21 missed 3-point attempts were pretty good looks; had they made even one more of those threes, the last few minutes of the game completely change. But make no mistake about it – the Pelicans absolutely earned this victory tonight. A great overall team effort, highlighted by a stellar individual performance by a guy who was so long overdue for one.

Congrats on an excellent performance tonight, Eric. It was truly a pleasure to watch.

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