Tobias Harris, Danilo Gallinari help Clippers hold off Pelicans 129-126
NEW ORLEAN — As comfortable as Lou Williams is going to his left, so are the Los Angeles Clippers in the clutch.
Even on the road, after blowing an 18-point lead.
Tobias Harris made two free throws with 4.7 seconds left to close out a 27-point performance, and the Clippers held off the New Orleans Pelicans 129-126 on Monday night.
“We’ve had a bunch of close games,” said Williams, whose 20-point night was highlighted by his contested, off-balance jumper as he dribbled left, giving the Clippers a 127-124 lead with 6.4 seconds remaining.
“If you’re going to compete in the Western Conference — there’s a lot of talented teams — you’re going to have to be able to do that,” Williams continued. “So, I think that was good for us.”
After Williams’ pivotal shot, the Clippers chose to foul quickly on New Orleans’ next possession. Darius Miller made two free throws with 4.9 seconds to go and the Pelicans followed suit with a quick foul, but had to attempt a 3 as time ran out after Harris made his late free throws. E’Twaun Moore wound up with the final shot, which caromed off the rim for a long rebound as time expired.
Danilo Gallinari scored 24 points for the Clippers, who scored 77 points in the first half, when they shot 65.2 percent (30 of 46) and took a 12-point lead into the locker room.
“We missed defensive assignments. There were a couple of times where we were not aggressive enough, especially on guys that can really score,” Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday said. “We really didn’t make it hard on them.”
Julius Randle scored a career-high 37 points for New Orleans, but fouled out with New Orleans leading by four with about four minutes left.
“When you are playing aggressive, trying to make things happen, it goes like that sometimes,” Randle said. “I’ve just got to be better, smarter in those situations.”
Holiday had season highs of 32 points and 14 assists, but he missed a 3 that could have given New Orleans the lead with 33 seconds left. Anthony Davis had 23 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks, but sounded frustrated after New Orleans’ sixth loss in eight games.
“For the most part, we’re in every game,” Davis said. “We’re beating ourselves.”
Clippers: Los Angeles’ 77 points at halftime marked a season high for a first half but was 10 points short of a franchise high for a half set in April 14, 1984 against Utah. … Avery Bradley scored 15 points and Montrezl Harrell had 14. … Harris made 10 of his 16 shots. … The Clippers shot 59 percent (49 of 83) for the game.
Pelicans: New Orleans has given up 70 or more in a first half this season three times. The Clippers’ 77 points were one short of the Pelicans’ franchise high for points allowed in a first half, set by Houston last season. … Miller had 15 points. … The Pelicans shot 53 percent (49 of 92). … New Orleans played without third-leading scorer Nikola Mirotic, who was a late scratch because of an illness.
Los Angeles led by 18 when Gallinari sank a 3 and a 6-foot pull-up in succession in the third quarter.
New Orleans stormed back with a 21-4 run late in the third quarter that included back-to-back 3s by Randle and Holiday.
Miller’s 3 with 5:23 remaining gave the Pelicans their first lead since the first quarter, and New Orleans briefly led by four after Davis laid in Holiday’s alley-oop lob.
The crowd was energized, sensing an improbable comeback, only to see the Clippers regain control. The Clippers scored the next six points on Gallinari’s free throws, Harris’ driving floater and Harrell’s layup after Williams found him cutting down the lane between converging defenders.
“We did a good job just weathering the storm,” Williams said, nodding toward the Pelicans’ locker room. “You’ve got to give those guys credit. It’s a talented group in there.”
There were two more ties after that, but the Clippers took the lead for good on Williams’ free throws with 1:32 left.
“One dribble left — it’s bread and butter,” Williams said of his final shot, with his foot on the 3-point line, as he went to his left near the left sideline.
Asked if he felt off-balance when he let it fly, he smiled and said, “I’m always off-balance.”
Holiday, who was guarding Williams, said, “That’s what he does, and at that point, you’ve just got to hope he misses. But most of the time, going to his left, he’s probably going to make it.”
Clippers: Visit Memphis on Wednesday night.
Pelicans: Host Dallas on Wednesday night.