Clippers Pelicans Basketball

Los Angeles Clippers guard James Harden (1) passes the ball in front of New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram (14) in the first half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Friday, Jan. 5, 2024. (AP Photo/Tyler Kaufman) 

In a Friday night tilt between two of the NBA’s hottest teams, Brandon Ingram made a midrange jumper with a little more than six minutes remaining before halftime.

Ingram’s 18-footer got his team within two points of the lead. It turned out to be the New Orleans Pelicans’ second-to-last field goal of the half.

The Pelicans scored five points in the final 6:11 of the second quarter. The Pelicans’ offense dried up, and by halftime, they had fallen behind by 15 points.

The Pelicans could not mount a second-half comeback as they fell to the Los Angeles Clippers 111-95 at Smoothie King Center. New Orleans’ four-game winning streak was snapped by the more experienced Clippers, who have a 19-10 record since they acquired James Harden.

“We didn’t meet the challenge," Pelicans coach Willie Green said. "They have been playing well. We have been playing well. They came in and kicked our butts.”

Harden scored eight points, but he still impacted the game with his playmaking. The veteran guard handed out 13 assists in 29 minutes. Paul George led the way for the Clippers with 24 points, while Kawhi Leonard scored 19 points.

The Pelicans averaged 117.5 points during their four-game winning streak. On Friday, they struggled to knock down shots. In the first half, the Clippers limited Brandon Ingram to four points. The frequent double teams the Clippers sent Ingram’s way forced the Pelicans’ leading scorer to pass the ball.

The Pelicans were unable to exploit the Clippers from anywhere on the court. They shot 34.9% from the field across the first two quarters.

“They switched a lot," said forward Herb Jones, who scored nine points. "Switching, it doesn’t allow you to really attack the paint. As the game went along, we did some different things to attack the paint. But they did a pretty good job of defending us. We just have to watch some film and get better.”

Zion Williamson finished with 12 points, which was tied for his second-lowest scoring output of the season. Williamson only played 19 minutes. He subbed out with 8:24 remaining in the third quarter and never returned with what the Pelicans said was a right leg contusion.

Clippers guard Norman Powell buried a corner 3-pointer just before the third-quarter buzzer sounded. That capped Los Angeles’ 36-point third quarter and gave his team a 24-point advantage entering the fourth quarter.

The Clippers won at Smoothie King Center for the first time since Jan. 18, 2020. They became the third team to hold the Pelicans to fewer than 100 points this season.

The 95 points the Pelicans scored were only six more than the season-low 89 points they produced in their Dec. 7 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in the In-Season Tournament.

New Orleans (21-15) dropped to 12-8 at home this season. It begins a difficult five-game road trip Sunday against the Sacramento Kings.

“We were a step slow," Green said. "I can look out on the floor. Maybe it’s fatigue. But I don’t want to take anything away from the Clippers. They dominated the game after the first five minutes. We have to be better. Our guys in the locker room know it.”

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