Resilient Clippers visit frustrated Pelicans

NBA

The Los Angeles Clippers continue to roll toward the Western Conference playoffs regardless of which players are available for any given game.

The injury-plagued Clippers have won four in a row and 11 of their last 12 games as they prepare to visit the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday night.

Los Angeles (43-19) defeated host Houston 109-104 on Friday even though Patrick Beverley (hand) and Serge Ibaka (back) are not with the team for this road trip, Kawhi Leonard (right foot soreness) and Rajon Rondo (right wrist inflammation) were sidelined and Marcus Morris was a late scratch for rest.

“We need bodies back and we need guys playing, because these guys are getting tired from (so many players) being injured,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said. “My hat’s off to these guys. They played their butts off and they got the win.”

L.A. overcame its lowest-scoring quarter of the season (11 in the third) to hold off the Rockets as Paul George finished with 33 points and 14 rebounds.

“We just had to stay with it,” George said. “Not every game is going to be perfect, and that third quarter was an indication of that.”

Reggie Jackson hit three straight 3-pointers during an 11-2 run early in the fourth quarter and finished with 19 points.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s 200-199 or 49-48, we’ve just got to find a way to come out with a win,” Lue said. “We’ve got a lot of guys out. We knew it’d be a tough game for us. Guys could’ve easily given up, but they didn’t.”

The Pelicans (26-34) haven’t given up, but they saw their fading hopes of reaching the play-in tournament all but vanish in a 110-108 home loss to the Spurs on Saturday. It was their fifth loss in six games with 12 remaining.

“To be right there (with an opportunity to win) game after game after game … and not be able to finish it off, it’s frustrating for everyone — coaches, players, front office, everybody,” New Orleans coach Stan Van Gundy said. “(The players) keep fighting through it and competing.”

The Pelicans shot the same number of free throws as the Spurs (32), but made just 17 — 10 fewer than San Antonio. Being outscored by 10 at the line and committing 19 turnovers is not exactly a recipe for success.

“Even with that, the opportunities were there,” Van Gundy said. “The free throws and turnovers keep it a close game instead of one you could’ve won.”

Zion Williamson scored four of his game-high 33 points during an 11-0 run that gave New Orleans a 99-94 lead, but San Antonio regained the lead for good at 102-101 with 2:55 left.

“They hit tough shots and made free throws, and some of those rebounds we need to get — we didn’t get them,” Williamson said. “It’s as simple as that. It is frustrating a little bit because those are things we can change.”

Monday’s game will decide the season series between the Clippers and the Pelicans after the home team won each of the first two meetings.

The Pelicans scored the most points by a Clippers opponent this season in a 135-115 victory March 14 in New Orleans. Back on Jan. 13, L.A. prevailed 111-106.

–Field Level Media

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