Fresh off their big win over the San Antonio Spurs, the News Orleans Pelicans are riding high as they head into their highly anticipated showdown with the Los Angeles Clippers in the 2022 NBA Play-In Tournament on Friday. In their continued fight to earn the final spot in the Western Conference Playoffs, the Pelicans will have their hands full against a tough-minded Clippers squad also looking to extend their season.
Even with All-Star talent Zion Williamson sidelined all year, the Pels have fought hard and are now within one win of making the playoffs. With all this going for New Orleans, let’s take a look at two reasons why this team will beat LA in the play-in tournament and advance into the 2022 NBA Playoffs to face the top-seeded Phoenix Suns.
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Why Pelicans will beat Clippers
The Clippers won’t have an answer for CJ McCollum, Brandon Ingram
After the scoring onslaught on Wednesday night led by CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram, it’s safe to assume that these two walking buckets will be back at it on Friday night. During Wednesday’s game against San Antonio, McCollum and Ingram combined for 59 points, 12 assists, and 11 rebounds as they seamlessly picked apart the Spurs’ defense.
With these two multi-faceted scoring machines leading the way for New Orleans, it goes without saying that the Clippers will be in for a fight. This is especially true considering both of these guys are bound to have another strong showing with their season on the line. Between their playmaking, ball handling, and ability to score in a multitude of ways, McCollum and Ingram will be a nightmare cover for LA. The Clippers have a strong defense with Paul George leading the way, but these two Pelicans stars are in a groove and won’t be denied.
Jonas Valanciunas and Jaxson Hayes will dominate LA down low
With the Clippers having a relatively thin frontline, this is a weakness that the Pelicans can exploit. Jonas Valanciunas and Jaxson Hayes are a pair of big men who can cause all kinds of trouble for the Clippers down low. Their size, length, rebounding, and rim protection will all be major attributes for the Pelicans and give them a competitive advantage.
Plus, with their abilities to finish strong at the rim and knock down mid-range jumpers, this well-rounded duo will dominate the interior and pummel Los Angeles on second-chance points. As they inch closer to the playoffs, being able to rely on frontcourt depth will be a necessity for the Pelicans. Valanciunas and Hayes are a dynamic tandem that can make things difficult for the Clippers.
LA could look to play small and force New Orleans to play smaller as well, but the Pelicans will do their best to punish them with their size.
Now that the Pelicans are getting their act together at the right time, things may finally start to go their way. Their potent combination of depth and explosiveness have paid major dividends for them up to this point. As they continue to fight their way back into the playoff mix out West, New Orleans will be coming at the Clippers with everything in its arsenal.
Even without the heroics of superstar Zion Williamson, the Pels have still managed to hold their own and climb within one game of the postseason. So come Friday night, the Pelicans are not to be taken lightly as they’re now a team on a mission. Fully engaged and locked in, the Pelicans have their sights set on an upset win.