After polarizing performances this week, the New Orleans Pelicans welcome the LA Clippers to the Smoothie King Center on Sunday night. This will be the second time these two have matched up this season after the Clippers secured a narrow 5-point victory back in January.
Since that win, Ty Lue's side look certain to attain home court advantage in the postseason while the Pels have struggled with consistency.
Stan Van Gundy said his side's defensive performance against the Timberwolves was embarrassing this week. Well, he certainly got a reaction when the New Orleans Pelicans held the Cavs to only 82 points on Friday in a dominant display, though they still remain 4 games behind Dallas in 8th seed.
The LA Clippers, meanwhile, need to remain fairly flawless considering the performances of those above them in the West. They returned to action on Thursday night with their two All-Stars combining for 45 points while the Clippers' bench brought in 58 in a dominant win against the Warriors.
LA Clippers vs New Orleans Pelicans prediction - March 14th, 2021
While it's easy to analyze the LA Clippers' season so far, it is more difficult to know what to make of their opponents on Sunday.
The New Orleans Pelicans were given high expectations heading into the season but have performed well off the Western Conference's competitive pace. In fact, even in the weaker East, the Pels would still be outside the playoff picture with their current record.
That said, the New Orleans Pelicans have a strong unit, particularly with the likes of Zion Williamson, who is a terror to guard when attacking the basket. The LA Clippers' strong defense will be required once again, as they did when stifling Steph Curry on Thursday night to come away from New Orleans with a win.
It is more likely, however, that the LA Clippers will have too much for their opponents in terms of depth, and therefore come into the fixture as slight favorites.
LA Clippers vs New Orleans Pelicans combined starting 5 - March 14th, 2021
Our combined starters from the LA Clippers and New Orleans Pelicans would be an offensive powerhouse, with both sides ranking inside the league's top-8 for efficiency attacking the basket.
A lot of attention was afforded to New Orleans Pelicans All-Star forward Zion Williamson last night. The sophomore added yet another staggering stat to what is sure to be a stellar career for him.
Beating the Cavs was Williamson's 16th-straight game with 20 or more points while shooting at least 50% from the field. Only hall-of-famers Shaquille O'Neal, Karl Malone and Wilt Chamberlain have amassed longer streaks than that in the history of the league.
Williamson wouldn't be the only All-Star in a combined 5, with both Paul George and Kawhi Leonard also having prolific seasons for the LA Clippers. Leonard was an All-Star starter last weekend and picked up where he left off prior to the break with 28 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists on Thursday.
Leonard looks zoned-in yet again this season and will be the key to the LA Clippers' pursuit of a first championship. The small forward is shooting at his highest clip since 2014, over 51% and has a win share of 5.3. His offensive rating is at a career-high 125 while also grabbing 1.5 steals per matchup.
His right-hand man this season, Paul George, has stepped up after a disappointing debut year in LA. George is also shooting the ball at an elite-clip, almost 6% more than his career average of 43.6% and has improved his nightly average points, assists and rebounds.
As interchangeable as Paul George can be with the position, so too is New Orleans Pelicans star Brandon Ingram. Our combined starting 5 would have 4 players not traditionally point guards, but who can carry the ball and shoot at a rate well above the league average.
After his breakout year for the New Orleans Pelicans, Ingram is offensively scoring the same points but is marginally more efficient per 100 possessions than he was last season. The small forward is the Pels' dominant presence on the court since Zion traditionally gets more rest and will be vital if the franchise is able to reach the postseason.
One player who has struggled to reach his regular heights for the New Orleans Pelicans is Steven Adams. So we have chosen another player making his debut campaign for a new team, Serge Ibaka, to spearhead our combined starters.
The LA Clippers big man, though not as offensively effective as the previous season, has settled into his role well out west. Ibaka was not brought in to be a dominant scorer for the franchise but to space the floor and hustle in the paint. His defensive rebounding provides 23% of the Clippers' overall figure and he provides an efficient 11.2 points and 6.8 rebounds on 23.9 minutes.