LOS ANGELES — A franchise participant out for the season. A primary-year head coach. A 1-12 begin. The New Orleans Pelicans overcame all of it and stormed again to make the playoffs.
Brandon Ingram scored 30 factors and the Pelicans rallied from a 13-point deficit within the fourth quarter to beat the depleted Los Angeles Clippers 105-101 in a play-in Friday night time and earn the West’s No. 8 seed.
“That win was big-time,” Pelicans coach Willie Green mentioned.
New Orleans blew a 16-point lead within the first half and didn’t seize the lead for good till the sport’s last 4 1/2 minutes.
“It was an emotional game, a ton of highs and lows,” Green mentioned. “But for us, our mentality is we’re going to continue to fight. We’re not going to fade out.”
The Pelicans made the playoffs for the primary time since 2017-18, guided by Green, a former Clipper. They’ve been with out Zion Williamson all season due to a foot harm.
“Starting off 1-12 and 3-16, you’re thinking when is it going to pick up?” rookie Trey Murphy mentioned. “Being my first year, I don’t know what winning is like. Look at us now.”
CJ McCollum added 19 factors and Larry Nance Jr. had 14 factors and 16 rebounds for New Orleans, which is able to play No. 1 seed Phoenix within the first spherical. Game 1 is Sunday within the desert.
“This team is resilient,” mentioned Nance, who was traded, together with McCollum, from Portland in February and lately returned from knee surgical procedure. “They started 1-12. That’s so hard to pick yourself up from. I’ve been in seasons like that, it’s hard to keep going and keep striving for it.”
The Clippers have been dealt an enormous blow earlier within the day when Paul George entered the league’s well being and security protocols. They’d already been with out Kawhi Leonard all season whereas he rehabbed an ACL harm. He watched from the bench early within the recreation.
Marcus Morris and Reggie Jackson every had 27 factors for the Clippers.
“I am disappointed in us not being able to make the playoffs, no matter who was playing,” mentioned Clippers coach Tyronn Lue, who’s lacking the postseason for the primary time as a head coach.
The Pelicans shot 57% within the first half and have been higher on the boards, within the paint and off the bench. They led by 16 within the second quarter earlier than the Clippers lower their deficit to 56-46 at halftime.
The Clippers roared again within the third, outscoring the Pelicans 38-18. They opened with a 20-2 run that had the group on its ft. Jackson scored 10 factors and Morris added six within the spurt.
Robert Covington began the third rather than 7-footer Ivica Zubac and his three-point play gave the Clippers a 75-62 lead, their largest of the sport.
Ingram scored 5 of the Pelicans’ last 12 factors to ship them into the fourth trailing 84-74.
“Just having faith in each other and staying connected,” Green mentioned of the Pelicans’ mindset. “Knowing we took their best shot and we’re only down 10 going into the fourth.”
That’s when New Orleans staged a rally of its personal.
After the Clippers scored to go up by 13 factors, the Pelicans ran off 11 straight factors after which McCollum hit a 3-pointer to tie it, 88-all.
Murphy hit his second 3-pointer of the quarter for an additional tie at 94-all.
That sparked a 10-0 run that gave the Pelicans a 101-94 lead, capped by Murphy’s 3-pointer that bounced on the rim and went in. He was certainly one of three rookies who contributed.
“Murphy had huge stones to come in and make those big shots they needed when they were struggling to score the basketball,” Lue mentioned.
The Clippers twice closed inside two within the last 1:17, however they missed 2 of 4 free throws and Jackson and Morris missed photographs down the stretch to see their season slip away.
“I thought our guys got a little tired,” Lue mentioned. “We didn’t continue to keep attacking.”
The Clippers, who made the Western Conference finals for the primary time in franchise historical past final yr, additionally have been lacking Luke Kennard. The league’s 3-point proportion chief didn’t play due to a sore proper hamstring that saved him out of the loss at Minnesota on Tuesday within the group’s first play-in recreation.