LOS ANGELES (AP) Doc Rivers and his Los Angeles Clippers are safely in playoff position, though home-court advantage would be preferred.
It’s quite a different story for the New Orleans Pelicans, who are losing ground – and time.
Blake Griffin scored 23 points, Chris Paul had 23 points and 11 assists, and the Clippers put a crimp in the Pelicans’ playoff hopes with a 107-100 victory on Sunday.
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”The last time I checked the standings, we went from seven to five,” center DeAndre Jordan said. ”I think it’s important to get home-court advantage, but the playoffs are just about matchups and how we come out and play. You still have to win a game on the road if you want to advance. So Doc has told us to just worry about getting better as a team, and everything will work itself out.”
J.J. Redick scored 20 points and Jordan finished with 16 rebounds and 12 points, helping the Clippers win their fourth in a row. They converted 18 Pelicans turnovers into 30 points and had a 25-6 advantage on second-chance points.
”The loss hurts badly. I thought we had a chance for a while, but we couldn’t take care of the ball the way we needed to,” coach Monty Williams said. ”A lot of our turnovers were just senseless, but I can’t argue with the way our guys compete and step up to the challenge every night.”
Anthony Davis led New Orleans with 26 points and 12 rebounds in 39 minutes after missing two games with a sprained left ankle. Tyreke Evans was sidelined because of the same injury and was replaced in the starting lineup by Norris Cole, who had 12 points before fouling out in the final minutes.
”We’ve been dealing with a lot of injuries,” Davis said. ”It’s tough, but this is the NBA. We have to deal with the adversity and still try to find a way to win.”
Former Clipper Eric Gordon, coming off the bench for the first time in 49 games this season, had 23 points in 37 minutes. Williams took him out of the starting lineup because he was late for a team meeting. Quincy Pondexter started at shooting guard instead and finished with 12 points.
”There’s nothing really to talk about,” Williams said. ”We have team policies. It’s an internal matter and we’re not going to make a big deal about it. He came off the bench and played well.”
The Pelicans have lost four of five following a 9-2 stretch. They are three games behind Oklahoma City for the eighth and final playoff spot with 12 games left.
”We’ve got to hit a major winning streak here towards the end, because they’re not going to bow down to anybody,” Gordon said. ”We have to control our destiny and be consistent, as far as winning games.”
The Pelicans missed their first six shots of the fourth quarter before slicing an eight-point deficit to 85-83 with 7:25 to play.
The Clippers responded with a 16-8 spurt, extending the margin to 101-91 with 3:13 remaining. New Orleans got no closer than six after that.
Gordon paced New Orleans to a 53-50 halftime lead with 14 points, including a pair of 3-pointers 37 seconds apart that triggered a 10-0 run in the final 2:03. The Pelicans made their first seven shots and raced out to an 11-point lead before the Clippers went ahead.
”I didn’t like the way we started the game,” Rivers said. ”We didn’t get it going, and they jumped out. I mean, they were on fire. They moved the ball and they literally could catch the ball almost anywhere they wanted to. Then we called an early timeout, and after that I thought we got the message and started competing.”
Pelicans: Gordon landed face-first after getting tripped up by Matt Barnes with 7:17 left in the third quarter and was slow to get up. He lost a tooth, but was back on the court after getting attended to by a trainer during a timeout. … C Omer Asik missed his second straight game because of a strained right calf.
Clippers: Jordan, who came in averaging a league-best 14.8 rebounds, is pulling them down at an 18.7 clip over his last 19 games. … The Clippers would have to go no worse than 4-7 the rest of the way to finish the regular season with 50 victories for the third straight year – which would be a franchise first. … Assistant coach Lawrence Frank has missed the team’s last three games due to personal reasons. … This was the eighth and final home matinee on the Clippers’ schedule. They went 4-4 in such games.