Guard Jamal Crawford got hot in the Los Angeles Clippers’ big victory Sunday night at Oklahoma City. He didn’t cool off much Monday night against the New Orleans Pelicans.
Crawford scored 24 points, including 7-of-12 on 3-point shooting. With Clippers power forward Blake Griffin and center DeAndre Jordan joining in with their own dunkfest, the Pelicans were no match, falling 123-110.
Crawford, who had scored 36 against the Thunder, said his teammates were looking for him this time, too.
“They were finding me, setting good screens,” he said. “(The Pelicans) got a hand a my face a couple of times; but when you feel good, you take those shots. You have to stay aggressive, and my teammates encouraged me to keep shooting.”
It was the fourth loss in a row for New Orleans (23-33), all since play resumed after the All-Star break, and it was the second consecutive home loss. It overshadowed 26 points and 11 rebounds by All-Star forward Anthony Davis, and 19 points and 12 rebounds, both career highs, by center Alexis Ajinca.
The loss comes with the Pelicans set to embark on a difficult five-game Western Conference road trip beginning Wednesday at Dallas.
Los Angeles (39-20), which leads the Pacific Division, won for the fifth time in seven games, starting before the break. The Clippers shot 51.8 percent, including 16-of-28 on 3-point tries (57.1 percent), a season-high for a Pelicans opponent. That more than offset a rare 26-of-31 free-throw shooting night by the Pelicans, who also scored 46 points in the lane and had 33 second-chance points.
“(The Clippers) had one of their nights where the ball was going in for them,” Pelicans coach Monty Williams said. “What I didn’t like was there were times when they made shots and we allowed our spirit to get down bit. When you are playing against a team like that, you can’t allow both things to happen, the stuff on the floor and your heart to go down.”
The Clippers began assaulting the rim early behind Jordan’s 10 points in the first quarter. That opened up opportunities for the shooters, and Crawford helped keep the Pelicans at bay in the second with 10 points, highlighted by 3-of-6 on 3-point shooting. Then Griffin, who finished with 22 points, and fellow All-Star Chris Paul led the way as Los Angeles broke the game open in the third. Paul had 10 points and six assists in the quarter, and Griffin had 11 points.
Paul, who had just two points and four assists at halftime, finished with 19 points, 13 assists and zero turnovers.
“That’s why he’s so good,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said of Paul, a five-time All-NBA player who began his career in New Orleans and is considered the best point guard in the world. “I thought Chris had his pulse on the game. In transition, he’s already calling the set, and we’re into it in one to two seconds. It’s a big difference.”
Leading 61-55 just 30 seconds into the third, Crawford sank two 3-pointers that touched off a 15-3 run and got Los Angeles’ defense and fast break going. A three-point play by Griffin was followed by steal and lob by Paul to Griffin at 8:06 that made it 76-58.
From there, the lead reached 19 points five times. The third quarter ended with Los Angeles leading 93-78, with the fourth a foregone conclusion.
“We kind of picked (the defense) up in the second half. But by that time, they were already in rhythm and making shots,” Pelicans point guard Brian Roberts said. “We really didn’t expect that coming off a back-to-back, but hats off to them.”
Having fought off the Pelicans in the first quarter, the Clippers’ reserves started off the second strong. Hedo Turkoglu sank a 3-pointer for the quarter’s first points, giving Los Angeles a 35-26 lead. And that became a recurring Clippers occurrence.
Los Angeles sank seven 3-pointers in the quarter. By 6:45 of the second, the Clippers had hit four 3-pointers, including back-to-back ones by Jared Dudley.
When Eric Gordon was called for a foul against Crawford as he sank the fifth 3-ponter of the quarter at 7:07, it gave Crawford the 40th four-point play of his career, an ongoing NBA record, and the Clippers a 47-35 lead. A minute later, he hit another one for a 15-point bulge — 52-37.
The Pelicans came to 56-49, but Crawford hit yet another 3-pointer, and the Clippers had a 10-point lead again. New Orleans trailed 61-53 at halftime.
The Pelicans trailed just 32-26 after the first quarter despite 66.7 percent shooting by the Clippers.