Pelicans head to NBA playoffs after turning back Clippers
LOS ANGELES — Having clinched a playoff berth, Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans are looking ahead.
They are one of five teams in the mix for the No. 4 seed in the wild West, and a win against the Spurs in their regular season finale would give the Pelicans home-court advantage.
“We know we’re not done,” Davis said after scoring 28 points in a 113-100 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday night. “It wasn’t just our goal to get here, but to make some noise.”
Nikola Mirotic had 24 points and 16 rebounds in the Pelicans’ fourth straight victory. They’ll be making just their second playoff appearance in seven years, having earned it without big man DeMarcus Cousins, who sustained a season-ending Achilles injury on Jan. 28.
The Pelicans proceeded to lose four of five before winning 10 in a row.
“When he went down, everybody on the team just picked it up,” Davis said.
Sindarius Thornwell scored 20 points off the bench, DeAndre Jordan had 15 rebounds and Montrezl Harrell added 15 points for the Clippers, who have lost three in a row while being eliminated from playoff contention.
The Pelicans shot 51 percent from the field and 56 percent from 3-point range in the first half. The Clippers fought back from an 11-point deficit to lead 47-45 before New Orleans closed on a 13-2 run to lead 59-49 at the break.
The Pelicans were just getting rolling.
Their scoring binge continued into the third, and when it was over — a 33-6 spurt over both halves — they led 79-53. Davis had nine points, Mirotic eight and E’Twaun Moore seven.
“Anthony has taken this team and put it on his back,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. “If we could have had a better record his name would definitely be in the MVP conversation.”
Davis stirred the crowd with an off the glass pass from Rajon Rondo that resulted in a one-handed alley-oop dunk in the run.
“That was exciting,” teammate Jrue Holiday said. “I’d rather him do that in the playoffs than now.”
Thornwell got a roar for a jam over DeAndre Liggins in the game’s final minutes.
Pelicans: They improved to 26-25 vs the West. … They won the season series 3-1. … New Orleans hasn’t made it past the first round of the playoffs since 2007-08.
Clippers: C Boban Marjanovic scored 10 of his 12 points in the fourth. … Starting guards Austin Rivers (right elbow soreness) and Lou Williams (sprained right ankle) sat out, but are likely to return for Wednesday’s season finale.
THE BEARDLESS ONE
Since shaving his beard last week, Mirotic has played like a new man. He came in averaging 28 points and shooting 56 percent from the field, compared to 14.6 points and 28 percent shooting with the beard he’d had since 2013. “You look like you’re 18 now, so you’re getting some calls,” Gentry told Mirotic.
SIGNED, SEALED, DELIVERED
Rookie C.J. Williams was signed to a multi-year contract after being a two-way player this season. The 28-year-old guard has appeared in 37 games for the Clippers — he started Monday — and 16 games for their NBA G League affiliate in Ontario. The North Carolina State graduate played in France, Greece and Italy and the G League before signing with the Clippers last fall. “I actually cried for about an hour,” said Williams, who surprised his visiting parents with the news. “You think of all the things you’ve done to get to this point.” Coach Doc Rivers said Williams is “a great, great person to have in your locker room. He came in and proved he’s an NBA player.”
HE SAID IT
“The MVP is (James) Harden. I’m going to announce it tonight.” — Rivers.
Pelicans: They host San Antonio to end the regular season on Wednesday.
Clippers: They host the Lakers on Wednesday in both teams’ season finale.
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