Clippers Paul George (13) had 15 points, seven assists and hit five threes in a 119-100 win over the Pelicans on Sunday, Apr. 3, 2022 (Courtesy Photo)

The Los Angeles Clippers officially clinched the eighth seed by defeating the New Orleans Pelicans 119-100 on Sunday evening at Arena.

Marcus Morris led the Clippers with 22 points, Ivica Zubac had 16 points and 14 rebounds, and Paul George had 15 points, making five three pointers to go along with seven assists.

With the NBA Play-In Tournament scheduled to begin on April 12, the seven-versus-eight seeded matchup earns the winner the seventh overall seed while the loser gets another chance to advance by playing the winner of the nine-versus-ten seeded game.

“I challenged the team in my first game back to shape into a playoff team… I think we’re doing that,” George said.

CJ McCollum led the ninth-seeded Pelicans with 19 points, Brandon Ingram had 15 points, eight rebounds and four assists while rookie forward Herb Jones added 13 points, eight rebounds and two blocks.

George missed 50 of 79 games this season and played in his third game since recovering from a torn UCL in his right elbow.

“Not all the way there but I’ve definitely used these games to get to that point,” George said on how he feels health wise before the playoffs begin in two weeks.

The Clippers made eight three-pointers in the first quarter and led 37-31 through 12 minutes of play. Robert Covington scored the first five of seven points for the Clippers in the second period enabling Los Angeles to take a 44-33 advantage three minutes into the quarter.

“They shot the three-ball extremely well tonight, 21 for 44, and we just didn’t make the game as tough as we needed to,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said. “Give the Clippers credit. You can tell they were prepared and they came in and just maybe were half a stepper faster in terms of the force they played with.”

Los Angeles forced Ingram and McCollum to shoot 10 of 29 from the field, forcing New Orleans into 16 turnovers, relying on its third and fourth options which could not match the Clippers balanced offensive performance.

Terance Mann finished with 15 points, Luke Kennard had 14 while Isaiah Hartenstein and Reggie Jackson added 12 and 11 points, respectively for the Clippers.

“It’s not often guys come to you and say PG you don’t have to guard the best player,” George said of Robert Covington wanting the toughest defensive challenges.

Covington finished with eight points, two steals and one block for Los Angeles, who quickly has become one of the team’s best perimeter defenders since joining the Clippers at deadline.

“This is the time when we start to get everything rolling,” Morris said. “Having PG back and hopefully getting [Norman Powel] back sometime soon, I think for any team it’s definitely seeing us is going to be something different.

The Clippers used a 12-0 run in the second period and led by as many as 23 points in the first half with the Pelicans unable to make a threat in the second half while suffering a 119-100 loss to its potential play-in opponent in Los Angeles.

“I fully expect to see them in the play-in tournament. That’s a team especially with coach [Tyronn Lue]. He’s brilliant with his X’s and O’s and switching up schemes and stuff like that,” Green said on possibly facing the Clippers in the play-in. “We saw a little bit of their schemes tonight and obviously we are going to keep paying attention to them and keep watching them, but we still got plenty of job to do ourselves before we get there.”

The Clippers will next host the first-seeded Phoenix Suns on Wednesday at 7:00 p.m.