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The NBA has gone to great lengths during the restart of its season to make players forget — if even for a moment — that they are playing inside empty gymnasiums. Music thumps during most possessions. Fans watching from home are digitally stitched onto videoboards ringing the court.
But every so often, during breaks in play, the gyms turn stone silent. That was the case Saturday afternoon with 4:04 remaining in the third quarter inside HP Field House on the Disney World property. The Clippers led New Orleans by 36 points and Paul George, whose night was done after eight three-pointers and 28 points, was heading to the bench.
Teammates rose from their assigned seats for a standing ovation as George approached. And because of the quiet around them, their claps rang throughout the building amid the Clippers’ 126-103 rout of the Pelicans.
Here are five takeaways from a record-setting win by the Clippers (45-21) in the second of their eight seeding games:
1. From October until the season’s shutdown in March, 37% of the Clippers’ shots were three-pointers, a share that ranked them in the middle of the NBA. During early scrimmages in Orlando, however, more than half their shots came from behind the arc, and that trend has proven to be no fluke so far during seeding play. Against the Pelicans and Lakers, 51% of the Clippers’ shots have been from deep and they have made 49% of them. They hoisted 47 attempts Saturday and sank 25 — a franchise record.
2. Outside of George and Kawhi Leonard, who combined for 58 points against the Lakers, the Clippers’ supporting cast struggled to contribute offensively in Thursday’s restart opene — the team’s other 13 players shot just 29% in the second half. Against the Pelicans, however, Marcus Morris and Landry Shamet, who combined for one field goal make Thursday, and Reggie Jackson, who had often forced plays, helped build the one-sided advantage. Morris and Shamet each scored nine points and Jackson, coming off the bench again with Patrick Beverley reinstalled in the starting lineup, scored 15.
3. The Clippers accomplished what few have this season by making rookie sensation Zion Williamson, the 6-foot-6, 285-pound highlight machine, appear human. With New Orleans carefully monitoring his conditioning, Williamson played his 14 minutes in what Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry called “short bursts.” Before tipoff, Clippers coach Doc Rivers cautioned that Williamson’s “minutes are impactful,” no matter how many he would play. Usually that is true. But facing Williamson for the first time this season, the Clippers held last year’s top draft pick to seven points.
4. Because of the midseason trade for Morris, the starting lineup that has become the Clippers’ default had played together for only 126 minutes before Saturday, a span in which they had outscored opponents by 45 points. In their first extended minutes together since March, the lineup of George, Morris, Beverley, Leonard and Ivica Zubac played 16 minutes and outscored the Pelicans by 23 points. The Pelicans hardly have one of the NBA’s premier defenses, but this lineup’s production Saturday — 11-for-17 shooting from three-point range, six steals, zero turnovers — nonetheless displayed its top-end potential.
5. The Clippers were the designated home team Saturday, a distinction that meant videoboards ringing three sides of HP Field House showed the team’s preferred message. Two were impossible to miss before tipoff. “Black Lives Matter” and “Register To Vote” stretched the length of the court, and in his postgame interview, Jackson steered his answers toward voting rights.
“There’s a lot of voter suppression, and there’s a bunch of systemic racism and tactics that are keeping Black people and people of color from voting,” Jackson said. “So we really want to focus on it and educate people and get everybody out there just to have your voice be heard and continue to push this movement and fight for change.”