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Behind the Numbers: Pelicans vs. Clippers (8/1/20)

A look at three key numbers related to Saturday’s seeding game in Orlando between New Orleans and the LA Clippers (5 p.m. Central, Fox Sports New Orleans, ESPN Radio New Orleans 100.3 FM, ESPN):

10, 12: New Orleans place in the Western Conference with a win Saturday, followed by what place the Pelicans will be in with a loss to the Clippers. The standings are so tight right now that every outcome has a distinct impact on the race to be eligible for the 8/9 play-in round, as New Orleans has already experienced over the past 48 hours. Among the four teams surrounding the Pelicans, Portland (ninth, 30-37) won an overtime thriller Friday over Memphis (eighth, 32-34), a few hours before San Antonio (10th, 28-36) rallied to beat Sacramento (12th, 28-37).

If New Orleans prevails Saturday, it will inch back in front of the Spurs by percentage points, but if NOLA loses, it will drop behind the Kings by a half-game. None of those four rival teams are in action Saturday, but all of them return to the court Sunday, with Memphis facing San Antonio; Portland meeting Boston; and Sacramento playing Orlando. That Grizzlies-Spurs afternoon matchup guarantees that a Pelicans loss Saturday would lead to losing more ground this weekend on one of those Southwest Division clubs.

21: New Orleans turnovers in Thursday’s loss to Utah, an area that proved very costly (there were 20 individual turnovers, plus one team turnover). As Alvin Gentry noted after Friday’s practice, the Jazz are near the bottom of the league defensively in forcing turnovers, ranking 29th in opponent turnover ratio (12.3 percent, ahead of only Dallas). Sloppiness against the Clippers could lead to even greater problems, because LA ranks eighth in the NBA in points scored off turnovers (17.7 per game).

“The No. 1 thing is we cannot turn the ball over, especially against this Clippers team,” Gentry said. “They are a much different team than Utah, in that they are very oriented to be a running team. They’ve got two All-Star guys who are not only good offensive players, but terrific defensive players. We’ve got to care take care of the ball and try to create offense.”

In three previous meetings with the Clippers this season, the Pelicans averaged 14.7 turnovers, including coincidentally coughing up 21 during a Jan. 18 three-point home loss. NOLA only had 14 in a Nov. 14 victory over LAC.

6: Pelicans reserves who were a positive in plus-minus Thursday vs. Utah, representing every non-starter New Orleans used in the game. Although plus-minus from one game is subject to flukiness, that statistic at least partially reflected the impact made by the team’s bench against the Jazz, after the first string was off to a slow start in the first and third quarters. JJ Redick was excellent in his 26 minutes, dropping in 21 points and handing out three assists. Josh Hart was his usual energetic self and added 10 points in 22 minutes. Gentry noted after Friday’s practice that he may rely more heavily on the bench in Saturday’s game, after the Pelicans looked “a little bit tired” at times vs. Utah, perhaps due to not playing in an official game since March 8.

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