Neither the Los Angeles Clippers nor the New Orleans Pelicans look exactly like the teams they expect to be this season.
Both squads have had to adjust to the absence of key players as they prepare to meet Sunday afternoon at Los Angeles.
The Clippers have lost their past three games, including consecutive games at Oklahoma City on Tuesday (108-94) and Thursday (118-110).
Kawhi Leonard missed those two games as maintenance for the injured knee that cost him all of last season, as has Marcus Morris Sr. for personal reasons. Paul George returned from a one-game absence but still showed the effects of an illness Thursday.
George had 10 points on 4-of-12 shooting in 31 minutes, then addressed his teammates in the postgame locker room.
“It’s definitely urgency right now,” George said. “It is not a concerning urgency, but it is an urgency that we need just by building the right habits. … We can’t have the same mistakes night after night. We’ve got to start building towards the team we want to be and start forming that team now.”
Los Angeles committed 20 turnovers Thursday, leading to 31 Oklahoma City points, two days after 19 turnovers led to 23 Thunder points.
“The live turnovers are killing us,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said.
Los Angeles has played just five games in what guard Reggie Jackson called “a marathon,” but he also voiced the need for a little urgency.
“We’ve got to fix this quickly,” Jackson said. “We can’t wait too long to get this ship righted. We know we have a long time so we’re not going to necessarily panic but it is urgent that we put our foot on the gas.”
The short-handed Pelicans are playing the middle game of a three-game road trip that began with a 124-111 loss at Phoenix on Friday.
New Orleans was missing three injured starters — Brandon Ingram (concussion), Zion Williamson (hip) and Herbert Jones (knee). Ingram did not make the three-game trip, which concludes against the Lakers on Wednesday. Williamson and Jones are questionable for Sunday.
Rookie Dyson Daniels, who helped the Pelicans defeat visiting Dallas 113-111 on Tuesday despite the injured starters, also is questionable because of an ankle injury against the Mavericks. He did not play against the Suns.
“It’s part of it,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said of the injuries. “There are some things we can’t control. Injuries happen. Guys just have to step up. For the most part, we are doing that.
“I thought we came in with the mentality that we wanted to win the game. We competed.”
Phoenix used a 14-0 run late in the third quarter to take a 93-83 lead at the end of the period and led by as many as 18 points in the final quarter.
The Suns out-rebounded New Orleans 47-33 and scored 60 points in the paint.
“That’s the difference in the game,” Green said. “Those are the things that we usually do, but they were better in those areas than we were.”
Pelicans forward Naji Marshall, one of the bench players thrust into the starting lineup, scored a career-high 21 points.
“We are definitely deep,” Marshall said. “Training camp set us up to the position we are in now. We are just trying to hold it down until (the starters) get back.”
–Field Level Media