“We probably can’t lose any more games.”
That’s how Brandon Ingram described the Pelicans playoff chances just three days into the NBA’s restart in Orlando. The Pelicans’ playoff dreams are on the ropes after starting 0-2 in the bubble.
What landed them there Saturday was a barrage of threes from the Clippers — Los Angeles set a franchise record going 25-of-47 from three. The team made its first six threes on the night, and Paul George went 8-of-11 from three on his way to a team-high 28 points as the Clippers rolled the Pelicans 126-103.
“I thought it was contagious tonight,” George said of the Clippers’ shooting. “One guy made a shot, next guy made a shot. The ball just started hopping around. We was finding the open man all night.”
Kawhi Leonard had 24 points for a Clipper team that looked much sharper on offense than it did in a 103-101 loss to the Lakers’ Thursday.
That may have a lot to do with the Pelicans’ defensive issues, which were evident through two games now.
Zion Williamson had just 7 points on 3-of-7 shooting in 14 minutes, and he sat the entire fourth quarter (the game was a blowout at the half, it was garbage time by the fourth). That’s a career-low in points for Zion. He also had a scare in the first half when Zion stepped on Reggie Jackson‘s foot and slightly rolled his right ankle. He limped off the court and left the game at that time, but returned for the third quarter.
The Pelicans are now 1.5 games back of Portland for the nine seed in the West — and because Portland has a better winning percentage than New Orleans, the Pelicans have to finish with a better record in the eight seeding games to get into a play-in series with Memphis.
Put more bluntly, Ingram is right. If Portland goes 5-3 in its eight games (it is 1-0 so far), then New Orleans has to go 6-2, and the Pels are already 0-2.
Monday’s Pelicans game against the Grizzlies now becomes a must-win for New Orleans. The Pelicans’ schedule does get much easier from here on out, but a team that came into the bubble with so much buzz around them has given itself no margin for error after two ugly losses to open the restart.