Pelican Top Clippers Again, 123-104; Valanciunas scores career-high 39, – CBS Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jonas Vallenicus scored 29 of his career-high 39 points in a spectacular first half as the New Orleans Pelicans beat the Los Angeles Clippers 123-104 on Monday night for the second time this month.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – NOVEMBER 29: Jonas Valencianus #17 of the New Orleans Pelicans reacts against the LA Clippers in the fourth quarter at Staples Center on November 29, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. Note to User: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Image, User is agreeing to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

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New Orleans took a 21-point lead in the first half in his first season with the Pelicans, thanks to an unprecedented effort from 10-year-old Lithuanian veteran Valensinas. The 6-foot-11 Valencian hit seven 3-pointers in the first half without fail, much to the delight of his teammates and even himself.

“People were calling him Dirk Valencinas,” New Orleans coach Willie Greene said with a grin.

Valančiūnas isn’t quite ready to call himself the next Dirk Nowitzki, even if he looks like a Dallas great at times.

“Everyone wants to be him,” said Valanissons. “He’s one of the greatest guys in the game, but I still have a lot of work to do to be like him.”

Valanikans, who had surpassed his career high by 3 seconds in the first half alone, had dropped 26 points and 13 rebounds over Los Angeles 10 days earlier in the Pelicans’ 94-81 victory in New Orleans. He added 15 rebounds to his scintillating scoring in the rematch.

“He changed the game for us tonight,” said Brandon Ingram, who scored 27 points for New Orleans. “He came out with a lot of energy and looked like he was playing loose. He was the head of the serpent for everything we did.”

Greene and the Pelicans’ coaching staff are consistently encouraging more long-distance shooting from Valencinas, who didn’t score a single 3-pointer in the first five years of his NBA career in Toronto. Valančiūnas added the shot to his arsenal through years of hard work, yet he is reluctant to free his jumper, although he knows it improves the Pelicans’ distance and ball speed.

Such a night is a boon for their confidence.

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“I feel comfortable when I see them walk in,” Valanisnas said. “I’m not comfortable when they’re not going in. It was just a team effort. Working with people, opening me up, running plays for him is the effort of five guys on the court.”

Paul George scored 27 points and Reggie Jackson scored 19 points for the Clippers, who have lost three of four and six of nine after a seven-game winning streak.

“We couldn’t stop them tonight,” said Clippers coach Tyrone Lew. “We were due for a poor defensive game … but they got everything they wanted, and we couldn’t get into any rhythm offensively.”

George closed the gap in the middle of the fourth through eight, but Ingram scored eight points in the quarter and led a 17-8 run for New Orleans to pull it off. George laments the Pelicans’ 47-35 rebounding advantage.

“Every team, they’re going to crash against us (the board),” George said. “It’s honestly our kryptonite. Every team goes that side, sends people to the glass. They think they can do it and there’s no penalty because once we get a rebound, we’re a great transition team.” Haven’t been there. We’re going to see it every night.”

Herbert Jones added 16 points for the Pelicans, who returned from their second-worst loss of the season in Utah last Saturday to end their three-game road trip with two wins.

The Pelicans have won three out of four, doubling the season’s win over the past six days after starting 3-16 without injury to Zion Williamson. His star forward has been cleared for a full return to basketball activities, further boosting New Orleans’ hopes of a turnaround in their season.

The Clippers (11-10) still won’t have Kawhi Leonard anytime soon, and they are struggling to keep pace in the competitive Western Conference.

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