New Orleans Pelicans vs. Los Angeles Clippers Pick & Prediction MARCH 15th 2024

The Los Angeles Clippers and the New Orleans Pelicans are both trying to avoid the play-in tournament.

The Clippers (42-23) are in fourth place in the tightly bunched Western Conference, three games ahead of the fifth-place Pelicans (39-26) as the two prepare to meet Friday night in New Orleans.

Los Angeles increased its lead by beating the Bulls 126-111 on Thursday night in Chicago to end a two-game losing streak.

Paul George scored 28 points and Kawhi Leonard added 27 to overcome the absence of James Harden (strained left shoulder) in the Clippers’ win over the Bulls.

Bones Hyland started in Harden’s place and scored 17 points, tied a career-high with 11 assists and added a career-best four steals.

“It felt good to get a win especially coming off a loss,” Hyland told Bally Sports West after the game. “We played really well. Hopefully we can build off this game.”

Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said he was hopeful that Harden would be able to return for Friday’s game. That said, he was pleased with the performance of Hyland.

“Bones has been great,” Lue said. “He continues to get better and understands what we need from him on a nightly basis. We need him to be aggressive scoring the basketball but also making guys better.”

The Pelicans can move closer to the Clippers and win the season series with a victory Friday. New Orleans holds a 2-1 lead after the road team won each of the previous meetings. Both teams will have 16 games remaining after Friday night.

The Pelicans saw their four-game winning streak end in a 116-95 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night. New Orleans was playing its first home game in 12 days, after sweeping a three-game road trip.

“They were the hungrier team,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said of the Cavaliers. “It was one of those games that you build some momentum, win three or four games in a row and come home after a long road trip and we had a letdown. So not indicative of who we’ve been and the guys know we have to be better.”

The game essentially was decided from behind the 3-point line. Cleveland sank 20 of 45 3-pointers and New Orleans made a season-low four, three fewer than its previous low, on 22 attempts. The Pelicans’ 18.2 percent on 3-pointers also was a season-low.

“Any time a team makes 20 3s and we make four,” Green said, “the math is going to make it tough to make up that many points.”

Green said the Cavaliers played with “more of a sense of urgency” than the Pelicans.

Each remaining game figures to have a sense of urgency for both New Orleans and Los Angeles as they jockey for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

“(The key to bouncing back) is just being ourselves, playing with a sense of urgency, understanding that every games means a lot, every possession means a lot,” New Orleans guard Trey Murphy III said. “We’ve got to be prepared for playoff basketball against good teams.”

–Field Level Media

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