Clippers vs. Pelicans NBA Odds & Picks: Back LA Against Struggling New Orleans Team (Sunday, March 14)

Clippers vs. Pelicans NBA Odds & Picks: Back LA Against Struggling New Orleans Team (Sunday, March 14) article feature image
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Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Kawhi Leonard.

  • The Clippers head to New Orleans for a matchup with the struggling Pelicans on Sunday night.
  • New Orleans has struggled defensively all season, while the Clippers are shooting at very strong rates this season.
  • Brandon Anderson breaks down the matchup and a trend he thinks gives value to the Clips.

Clippers vs. Pelicans Odds

Clippers Odds -5.5
Pelicans Odds +5.5
Moneyline -225 / +180
Over/Under 236.5
Time 9 p.m. ET
TV ESPN
Odds as of Saturday night and via PointsBet.

It’s been a wild college basketball week, but the NBA has a fun one saved for us Sunday night after the brackets are out and we settle in for an entertaining game of stars to end the weekend.

Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram will battle Kawhi Leonard and Paul George as both teams try to get the second half of their respective seasons moving in the right direction.

The Clippers open as road favorites for this marquee ESPN matchup. Does LA have what it takes to win and cover?

Los Angeles Clippers

The Clippers are 25-14 heading into this one. Los Angeles has fallen to fourth in the Western Conference and third in its own division, but this remains one of the best teams in the NBA.

The Clippers have a +6.1 Net Rating, per Basketball Reference, that was still fourth in the NBA entering play on Saturday, and they’ve been even better when the stars and healthy, which they will be for this one.

Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are each a few free throws away from 50/40/90 shooting seasons. Heck, Nic Batum is a few free throws away from the same numbers season himself. The Frenchman has been LA’s third-best player this season and a big reason why the Clippers rank first in the NBA in both 3-point and free-throw percentage.

LA creates good looks for itself and even when it doesn’t, the Clippers are just really good at making tough shots.

That’s the story of this team, really, since the Clippers are just fine defensively. They do a good job limiting 3-pointers and don’t foul much, and they are a good defensive rebounding team, but they’re below average inside the arc on both ends. Nothing about the statistical profile really jumps out as anything spectacular, except that this team still can’t miss a shot all season, and it turns out that’s pretty valuable.

That’s even true when Leonard and George play together. The Clippers lost three games in a row heading into the All-Star break, but both star wings missed one of those games each, but not the same one. When both Leonard and George play, the Clippers are 19-6 this season, which is good for a 62-win pace over a normal 82-game season.

One name you may want to watch here is Patrick Beverley. He left Thursday’s game with a knee injury and didn’t return, and the Clippers also play Monday night, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Beverley limited or out here.

But Leonard and George should be out there, and when they are, the Clippers are still really good.

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New Orleans Pelicans

The Pelicans are also starting to slip a little deeper in the standings than they’d like to be.

New Orleans is just 16-22, only three spots away from the cellar of the Western Conference. If the playoffs started today, they’d begin without the Pelicans, including the play-in games.

The underlying metrics suggest New Orleans has underperformed and is probably closer to a .500 team, but that’s not exactly praiseworthy. This team is pretty easy to define. Williamson has been awesome and Ingram is still pretty good, but the new additions haven’t clicked and this team’s defense has been abysmal.

Let’s start with the good: Zion is a superstar.

Williamson is averaging 25.5 points per game this season on 65% True Shooting, and it’s remarkable how consistent a scorer he’s become at such a young age. Zion has played 60 NBA games now, and he’s scored 20 or more points in 49 of them. That is a remarkably high floor for a young player. In fact, Michael Jordan was the last player to match that feat.

Williamson has spent more time on the ball in recent weeks, creating more for both himself and his teammates. He’s getting better every month and should have an opportunity for a big game against a defense that isn’t particularly strong inside the arc.

The Pelicans offense has strong metrics overall, with Williamson leading the way and Ingram and Lonzo Ball also contributing well.

The problem is the rest of the roster. Eric Bledsoe and Steven Adams have not fit in on either end, really. They’ve clogged up the offense without contributing much and certainly haven’t fixed anything on defense.

New Orleans ranks 28th in Defensive Efficiency, and the Pelicans haven’t even been that good. They rank at or near the bottom of most defensive metrics over the past month-plus.

New Orleans sports an ugly 56.2% Defensive Effective Field Goal Percentage on the season. It is simply allowing far too many easy looks, and that spells bad news against an offense this good.

The Pelicans have also struggled to find a passable bench rotation, and that should be a problem against Lou Williams et al.

If there were any questions about how bad this defense has been, they were answered when the Pelicans staggered out of the All-Star Break by allowing 135 points to the pathetic Timberwolves, a team that had seven wins on the season and was missing both its starting guards. New Orleans lost that one by 30 points, and the Pelicans have lost five of seven.

Clippers-Pelicans Pick

These teams met two months ago in Los Angeles, and a look at that game may tempt you toward a Pelicans pick here. The Clippers won, but by only five points, and New Orleans was missing Williamson, Ball and Bledsoe, while the Clips were basically fully healthy.

Dig a little deeper, though, and you’ll see the Pelicans got a monster career night from Nickeil Alexander-Walker, who poured in 37 points, and they dominated the offensive glass with 12 boards on that end and a bunch of second-chance points. The defense certainly wasn’t what kept them close. The Clippers scored 111 points in 91 possessions, a sign of that poor Pelicans defense to come, even at a slow pace.

It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Williamson have a big game here, and the Pelicans could replicate their offensive-rebounding success — they do lead the league in that, after all.

Still, the Pels’ defense is just no match for this Clippers offense and it feels like anytime this game gets close, Leonard, George & Co. can just score a few more and push for another lead.

Unlike New Orleans, the Clippers looked great coming out of the All-Star break. They beat the Warriors by 26 points in a game that was never close. That was LA’s 15th win this season by 13 or more points.

Meanwhile, the Pelicans’ ugly Minnesota loss was their 15th loss this season by eight or more points.

The Clippers tend to win games comfortably, and all but four Pelicans losses have been relative blowouts.

That tells us that if we think the Clippers win this game, we should feel very comfortable looking for them to cover, especially at a relatively tepid line of 5.5 points. I do think the Clippers win. LA is a good team, and the Pelicans just aren’t very close to its level.

I’ll take the Clips to win and cover and would play them as high as -7.5, as long as Kawhi and PG are a full go.

Pick: Clippers -5.5 (up to 7.5)

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