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Pelicans earn win over Clippers, claim Western number eight seed

LOS ANGELES (AP) – A franchise player out for the season. A first-year head coach. A 1-12 start. The New Orleans Pelicans overcame it all and stormed back to make the playoffs.

Brandon Ingram scored 30 points and the Pelicans rallied from a 13-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat the depleted Los Angeles Clippers 105-101 and earn the West’s number eight seed.

“That win was big-time,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said. ”It was an emotional game, a ton of highs and lows,” Green said. “But for us, our mentality is we’re going to continue to fight. We’re not going to fade out.”

New Orleans blew a 16-point lead in the first half and didn’t grab the lead for good until the game’s final four-and-a-half minutes.

The Pelicans made the playoffs for the first time since 2017-18, guided by Green, a former Clipper. They’ve been without Zion Williamson all season because of a foot injury.

New Orleans Pelicans’ Brandon Ingram shoots. PHOTO: AP

CJ McCollum added 19 points and Larry Nance Jr had 14 points and 16 rebounds for New Orleans, which will play number one seed Phoenix in the first round.

Marcus Morris and Reggie Jackson each had 27 points for the Clippers.

The Pelicans shot 57 per cent in the first half and were better on the boards, in the paint and off the bench.

They led by 16 in the second quarter before the Clippers cut their deficit to 56-46 at halftime. The Clippers roared back in the third, outscoring the Pelicans 38-18. They opened with a 20-2 run that had the crowd on its feet. Jackson scored 10 points and Morris added six in the spurt.

Robert Covington started the third in place of seven-footer Ivica Zubac and his three-point play gave the Clippers a 75-62 lead, their largest of the game.

Ingram scored five of the Pelicans’ final 12 points to send them into the fourth trailing 84-74.

That’s when New Orleans staged a rally of its own. After the Clippers scored to go up by 13 points, the Pelicans ran off 11 straight points and then McCollum hit a three-pointer to tie it, 88-all.

Murphy hit his second three-pointer of the quarter for another tie at 94-all.

That sparked a 10-0 run that gave the Pelicans a 101-94 lead, capped by Murphy’s three-pointer that bounced on the rim and went in.

The Clippers twice closed within two points in the final 1:17, but they missed two of four free throws and Jackson and Morris missed shots to see their season slip away.

The Clippers, who made the Western Conference finals for the first time in franchise history last year, also were missing Luke Kennard.

The league’s three-point percentage leader didn’t play because of a sore right hamstring that kept him out of the loss at Minnesota on Tuesday in the team’s first play-in game.

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