LA Clippers learn harsh lesson from potential playoff opponent

Paul George and the LA Clippers couldn't contain the Pelicans
Paul George and the LA Clippers couldn't contain the Pelicans / Sean Gardner/GettyImages

The LA Clippers have got one eye on the NBA postseason. Perhaps they should turn their other eye to the moment. Last night, they got a sobering wake-up call from a potential playoff opponent

The New Orleans Pelicans defeated the Clippers by a final score of 112-104. As a result, they won the regular season series 3-1. This is concerning. If the season ended today, the Clippers and Pelicans would meet in the playoffs. 

Do the Pelicans have the LA Clippers' number? 

The Clippers couldn't do much about Zion Williamson last night. That's fair - when Williamson is on, there's little anyone can do to stop him. 

Still, the Clippers' game plan failed them. Williamson finished with 34 points on 14/21 shooting from the field. The bulk of those points came on the interior. If Williamson wanted a dunk or layup attempt, he got it. 

For the most part, the Clippers played Ivica Zuba at the 5 - he logged 33 minutes. That was smart. If you want to contain Williamson, you need to protect the rim as well as you can. 

With that said, the Clippers did make an interesting rotational decision that may not have paid off. 

LA Clippers make strategic shift 

We've largely written P.J. Tucker off. We've asserted that the Clippers were prioritizing Daniel Theis over him. We were wrong. 

Tucker saw 24 minutes of action last night. By contrast, Theis was on the floor for an entire 7 minutes. This was a significant shift from what we've been seeing in recent games. 

Far be it from us to question Tyrone Lue. He's unequivocally one of the best coaches in the NBA. With that said, the Clippers could have used Theis' additional length in containing Williamson's dribble penetration. 

That wasn't the only factor holding them back. 

LA Clippers missing star player

Against the Chicago Bulls, Bones Hyland did an admirable job of filling in for James Harden. Last night, we couldn't say the same. Hyland finished with 5 points on 2/9 from the field to go with 4 assists and 2 turnovers. 

It isn't fair to expect a young player like Hyland to fill James Harden's shoes. Still, his performance pointed to an obvious fact: the Clippers are missing Harden. Without him, their offense grew stagnant. This team is missing their primary playmaker. 

Here's hoping he's healthy for the playoffs.