The LA Clippers’ season is on the line tonight against the New Orleans Pelicans. They will host CJ McCollum, Brandon Ingram and company in the win-or-go-home contest with a spot in the NBA Playoffs on the line.
The Clippers have fought without Kawhi Leonard for the entire duration of the season and without Paul George for more than half of it. After losing the first play-in contest to old friend Patrick Beverley and the Minnesota Timberwolves, they will have to regroup and deal with the Pelicans in order to become the Western Conference’s eighth seed. New Orleans has improved noticeably after acquiring McCollum at the trade deadline.
George has been great since making his return from a UCL injury but he is not the Clippers’ most important X-factor against the Pelicans. LA needs someone else to have a big shooting night. It will take two to tango as they look to keep up with Ingram and McCollum.
Clippers X-Factor in 2022 NBA Play-in Tournament vs. Pelicans
Reggie Jackson has to step up for the Clippers. Going bucket for bucket with McCollum is a tough task but Jackson will have to take on the challenge.
Since the Pelicans play big and use two bigs and two forwards in their starting lineup, Jackson could be matching up with McCollum for a good portion of the game. The Clippers do switch defensive assignments often and use zone defense, though, so Jackson won’t have to guard McCollum on an island for long stretches.
The key thing Jackson has to do is match up with McCollum offensively. Shot-making is the name of the game for Jackson. As the Clippers’ secondary ball-handler next to George, his role has always been to put up points. With a red-hot McCollum standing in the way of a playoff berth, Jackson needs to have a big game.
Jackson’s ability to step up tonight will be greatly challenged by the Pelicans’ stud defender Herb Jones. The rookie wing is a menace on and off the ball, contesting every shot and disrupting passing and dribbling rhythms routinely. New Orleans uses him everywhere on defense but he could be primarily assigned to disrupt George, who is coming off of a 34-point performance.
If Jones spends a lot of time on George, Jackson will have to take advantage of every opportunity he can get. McCollum and Ingram aren’t very great defenders, which bodes well for him. However, the paint could be an issue with Jonas Valanciunas and Jaxson Hayes roaming. His shooting may have to carry him if he can’t navigate his way through the paint with two centers.
Reggie Jackson has had the hot hand tonight! 🔥
A new season-high 36 points 😤pic.twitter.com/pmXEjQeArE
— Clippers Nation (@ClipperNationCP) March 4, 2022
LA would have more reinforcements if not for Luke Kennard’s hamstring injury. Norman Powell will be available, though he is still getting his legs under him after missing 22 games with a left foot injury. Jackson has been the Clippers’ most important scorer this season because of LA’s stars missing time. His importance is emphasized tonight.
In last year’s playoff run, Reggie Jackson came through time after time with big scoring games. When the Clippers need buckets in the do-or-die game, they will need to rely on Big Government to bail them out if necessary.