Thu, 08 Jun 2023

Clippers, Pelicans winning without injured stars

Field Level Media
25 Mar 2023, 12:55 GMT+10

Paul George isn't going to play again for the Los Angeles Clippers during the regular season.

Zion Williamson may or may not return to the New Orleans Pelicans during the final week of the regular season.

When the Pelicans visit the Clippers on Saturday night, both teams will try to strengthentheir postseason chances so their star players can return in time to have an impact.

L.A. (39-35) did fine in its first game without George, defeating visiting Oklahoma City 127-105 on Thursday night, two nights after George injured his right knee in a home loss to the Thunder.

Kawhi Leonard scored 32 points on 13-of-15 shooting to lead the way.

"In order for us to be good going down the stretch," Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said, "Kawhi is going to have to play at a high level. ... This is what we need from him every night."

Russell Westbrook added 24 points and seven assists.

"Missing a guy like (George), the ball is going to be in my hands more and everybody else as well," Leonard said. "One man can't win these basketball games. Still going to have to come in with a group effort."

L.A. got that as Bones Hyland (16 points), who was playing for the first time in eight games, Terance Mann (14) and Nicolas Batum (12) led a bench that Lue said "changed the game for us."

"Guys who haven't been playing like myself, just come in and be the guy who provides the spark," Hyland said. "(George) went down. It's a sad moment but PG will be back out there with us, but we got to handle business on the floor and keep tallying wins for PG."

There's no guarantee that George, who will be re-evaluated in two-to-three weeks, will return before the Clippers' season ends.

The same is true of the Pelicans and Williamson, who is scheduled to be re-evaluated with five days left in the regular season, which ends April 9.

The Pelicans (36-37) have won three games in a row against teams that have been eliminated from playoff contention -- the Rockets, the Spurs and the Hornets. They're starting a four-game trip that has them also playing the Blazers, the Warriors and the Nuggets.

"At this point, we are desperate for the wins," said center Jonas Valanciunas, who had 20 points and 19 rebounds in a 115-96 victory against visiting Charlotte on Thursday. "We are playing together on offense. We're playing with that mojo, enjoying basketball. That takes care of offense, defense and winning."

Brandon Ingram had his first career triple-double (30 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists) against the Hornets.

"I just wanted to set the tone," said Ingram, who scored 17 points in the first quarter. "This game was very important for us to be in the postseason. I knew that every possession counts on the offensive and defensive end. I wanted to have a sense of urgency that would trickle down to the rest of the team for the rest of the game."

The Pelicans won their only previous game against the Clippers this season, 112-91 on Oct. 30 in Los Angeles. They meet again April 1 in New Orleans.

--Field Level Media

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