The New Orleans Pelicans defeated the Los Angeles Clippers with a strong defensive effort in the final quarter to advance to the NBA Playoffs.
It’s a very simple formula, really.
When the New Orleans Pelicans hold a team to 105 points or less, they are nearly impossible to beat.
Once again, the Pelicans proved it in their heart-wrenching, playoff-clinching, 105-101 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.
Outside of a third-quarter where they allowed the Clippers to score 38 points, New Orleans played into the philosophy that Willie Green set out in his opening press conference.
“I think (defense) translates to winning at a high level in the regular season, but also in the playoffs, which is what we want to be,” Green said back on July 27.
When the Pelicans held their opponents to 105 or less during the regular season, they were 25-6 (.806).
Those wins accounted for 69 percent of the team’s regular-season total.
Of those 25, 16 came against teams that were either in the Play-in or already in the Playoffs.
In their victories over San Antonio and Los Angeles, the Pels gave up 103 and 101 points, respectively.
This season, New Orleans won six of the ten matchups against the Spurs (2-3) and Clippers (4-1). In all six wins…you guessed it, the Pelicans gave up 105 points or less. Their average margin of victory in those games was 15.5 points per game.
In the four losses, they surrendered an average of 115.5 points per game and lost by an average of 12 points per game.
We can marvel at Brandon Ingram’s mid-range brilliance and Trey Murphy’s cold-blooded shooting down the stretch, but when it mattered most, it wasn’t the Pelicans’ offense that got them to the playoffs.
The Pelicans are back in the postseason for the first time in four years because of a fearsome and relentless defensive identity that has been 82, now 84 games in the making.
If they make any noise against the top-seeded Phoenix Suns, they have to raise their level of focus and communication that much more.
New Orleans lost three of four to Phoenix during the regular season. The lone victory was a 117-102 blowout of the Suns back in February.
The odds are long, but the path is clear.
Defense. Defense. Defense