The LA Clippers are going to have a very favorable matchup Friday night, but there’s no easy wins in this league.
Yes, the Clippers are going up against the 2-14 Pelicans, but there’s some talent on that team. Sure, their most talented piece is All-Star Zion Williamson, who is out right now. They still have a couple guys who can play, and could potentially give the Clippers a hard time.
The Clippers need to hold two players in particular to avoid this game looking like an easy dub, but turning south and proving this contest to be a trap game.
Jonas Valanciunas and Brandon Ingram are the two Pelicans that could force an upset against the LA Clippers.
They’re having good years. For Ingram, he’s been looking more like what many expected when he was coming out of the draft as the number two pick in these last few years since he moved to New Orleans. This year has been arguably the best of his career.
He’s a scorer, shooting 44.9% from the field and 40.4% from deep. He’s not getting to the line as much as he used to anymore, but he’s still putting up 24.3 points per contest.
The Pels have been a bad offensive team this year. They’re scoring just 101.8 points per game this season, which is just 26th in the league. A bad shooting team, they’re striking on just 42.3% of field goals this year (also 26th in the league), and 33.6% on shots from deep (tied for 19th in the league).
Well, Ingram can obviously both score and shoot. If they want to have him take over the game, which may be a good idea, he’s a guy who can get hot and flash all that promise he showed coming out of Duke. This is where Paul George needs to continue his elite defensive play and keep BI in check.
Stopping Valanciunas is going to be all about physicality. The Clippers’ big men have done a good job this year, and have exceeded expectations without Serge Ibaka playing with us much.
That being said, it isn’t every day that a team goes up against menacing centers like Valanciunas. He’s averaging 12.9 rebounds per game this season. That’s third in basketball.
The Clippers aren’t a bad rebounding team, but they’re not a great rebounding team. They’re averaging 45.8 rebounds per game, which is tied for 13th in basketball.
Again, that’s not bad at all, but it takes a lot to secure a high number of boards against Valanciunas. He also could create mismatches against the Clippers due to Ibaka not being here.
Ibaka is the center we have that has the quickness and athleticism to guard other centers around the perimeter the best.
Valanciunas has spent more time out around the three-point line than he ever has, and is converting three-pointers at the highest rate out of any player in basketball–55.2%. He’s also scoring a career-high 19 points per game. It’s safe to say he’s having the best offensive year of his career.
It’ll be a challenge for Ivica Zubac and Isaiah Hartenstein to keep up with Valanciunas due to the mismatches that he tends to create.
Again, the Clippers don’t need to fear these two guys at all. They do, however, have potential to wreak havoc on the Clips and force a Friday night upset.