New Orleans Pelicans vs. Los Angeles Clippers Pick & Prediction JANUARY 5th 2024

The Los Angeles Clippers have won their past four games.

So have the New Orleans Pelicans.

Two of the hotter teams in the Western Conference meet Friday night in New Orleans.

The Clippers have won 13 of their past 15 games after a 131-122 victory at Phoenix Wednesday night. The Pelicans have won nine of their past 12 games after a 117-106 road victory against West-leading Minnesota on Wednesday.

New Orleans was completing a back-to-back, but no one played as many as 30 minutes in the first of the two games, a 112-85 home victory against Brooklyn.

Zion Williamson scored 27 points, CJ McCollum had 24 and Brandon Ingram added 19 against Minnesota. The Wolves, who lost just their second home game, matched their lowest point total in the past 14 games.

“We’ve all been locked in and connected on the defensive end, and that leads to a lot of better things on the offensive end — transition points and just the movement of the ball,” Williamson said. “So, when me, CJ and B.I. do get in our iso, we’ve got more space.”

New Orleans shot 55.6 percent from the floor, led by Williamson and Ingram shooting a combined 18 of 26. The Pelicans outscored Minnesota 32-22 in the second quarter to open a 13-point halftime lead and led by 24 points in the third quarter.

“I give that credit to B.I., especially at the end of the second quarter,” Williamson said. “He made that separation. He was just getting to it. And then in the third quarter, that energy continued with the whole team.”

The Clippers also took command early in their victory at Phoenix. They shot 55.3 percent from the field and 52.9 percent on 3-pointers.

Los Angeles started the season 3-7 and has gone 18-5 since. It has started to roll the way it was envisioned when the Clippers acquired James Harden, who had 22 points and 11 assists against the Suns, from Philadelphia on Oct. 31.

“We still haven’t figured it out, because different teams guard us differently,” Harden said. “Once we’ve seen every defense, which probably won’t be until the end of the year, we’ll figure out how to attack.”

The Clippers still attacked Phoenix successfully, finishing with their highest point total in seven games as Paul George scored 33, making 8 of 14 shots, including 5 of 10 3-pointers, and Kawhi Leonard added 30.

LA led by 15 points after the first quarter and by 19 at halftime, though coach Tyronn Lue lamented a dip in offensive efficiency that helped the Suns get as close at eight points in the fourth quarter.

“It’s just making the right pass and making the right play — that’s what we’ve got to be good at,” Lue said. “We want teams to double team us with all the shooting we have, but we just didn’t handle it the right way (down the stretch).”

The visiting Pelicans defeated the Clippers 116-106 on Nov. 24 in Los Angeles. The teams will meet twice more — Feb. 7 in Los Angeles and March 15 in New Orleans. –Field Level Media

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