Brandon Ingram scored 30 points and the New Orleans Pelicans overcame a 13-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat the depleted Los Angeles Clippers 105-101 in a play-in Friday night and earn the West’s No. 8 seed for the playoffs.
The Pelicans made the playoffs for the first time since 2017-18, guided by first-year coach Willie Green, a former Clipper. They’ve been without Zion Williamson all season because of a foot injury.
The Clippers were dealt a huge blow earlier in the day when Paul George entered the league’s health and safety protocols. They’d already been without Kawhi Leonard all season while he rehabbed an ACL injury. He watched from the bench early in the game.
CJ McCollum added 19 points for New Orleans, which will play No. 1 seed Phoenix in the first round. Game 1 is Sunday in the desert.
Marcus Morris and Reggie Jackson each had 27 points for the Clippers.
The Pelicans shot 57% 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.
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Robert Covington started the third in place of 7-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 3-pointer to tie it, 88-all.
Rookie Trey Murphy hit his second 3-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 3-pointer that bounced on the rim and went in.
The Clippers twice closed within two in the final 1:17, but they missed 2 of 4 free throws and Jackson and Morris missed shots down the stretch 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 3-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.
Pelicans: They had won the season series, 3-1.
Clippers: Hadn't missed the playoffs since 2017-18 season. ... Nicolas Batum and Terance Mann started in place of George and Kennard ... Lawrence Frank, president of basketball operations, said Leonard “continues to progress with his rehab,” but there is no timetable for his return.
The Pelicans were 1-3 against the Suns this season.