The New Orleans Pelicans will be in the Staples Center tonight to take on LeBron James and the Lakers. The Pelicans come into this game off of a one-point loss to the Embiid-less 76ers in Philadelphia. Previous to this game, the Pels had a relatively convincing win over the Lakers at home. The Lakers are on a massive skid, as losers of 3 of their last 10. They have a win over the Rockets and also losses vs. Atlanta, New Orleans, and Memphis in that stretch.
Pelicans Up for Grabs
The Pelicans are still in a state of uncertainty when it comes to playing time. Anthony Davis is expected to play in this game, although I would expect his minutes to be severely limited to 20-25 minutes. We will likely get a report on this news before the game. After the trade deadline and the firing of Dell Demps, the Pelicans made it clear Davis and Holiday would see less court time. That has been very true with Davis, but Holiday has still played a good amount of minutes, like the 34 he had in the last game. They also announced that they would try to play more players on expiring deals and young players. This has taken place in the last 3 or so games, with Julius Randle picking up 34 and 38 minutes in the last 2 games, Hill and Frazier being out of the rotation, and Williams, Diallo, and Jackson all seeing more consistent playing time.
Lakers Bad Basketball
The Lakers are completely lost and it shows just from watching them play. There are a lot of issues with this team right now, but the production of Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma are NOT it. To even add on to it, the loss of Lonzo Ball IS part of the major problem. In their last game vs. Memphis, Kuzma and Ingram combined for 54 points on 21-33 from the field and 5-8 from 3. Ingram is also the team’s best defender with Ball out. The bench scored 7 points in 70 total minutes. THAT is a problem. The defense is also the second worse in the NBA during this stretch, almost solely based on LeBron James, in my opinion. It is hard to quantify defensive fault, but here is a nice stat. When LeBron James was out, the Lakers were third in the NBA in defensive efficiency. Now, Lonzo is out and LeBron is playing the point guard position. The Lakers even added a good defender in Bullock to their starting lineup and they are 29th with LeBron in. That’s a massive change and it is why the are losing to bad teams. The Grizzlies, Pelicans, and Hawks scored over 110 points on the Lakers. That cannot happen.
Rematch on Tap
We have seen this matchup very recently in New Orleans without Anthony Davis. Now normally, that is a massive change. I do not think it is in this game. Julius Randle has been great at producing all season and Davis hasn’t been as involved in his shortened run. I think 20 minutes of Davis helps, especially defensively, but it’s not a huge change. One thing that I don’t expect to happen again is Brandon Ingram foul trouble. Ingram had 29 points in just 26 minutes in the last game due to foul trouble. If the Lakers are competitive throughout this game, I expect Ingram to see 36-38 minutes. I think that will go a long way in helping the recent bench struggles that have plagued the Lakers. The other thing that I am looking for tonight is LeBron’s aggression. In the last game, LeBron only took 17 shots, 11 inside the arc. This was when the Pels ran Julius Randle at the five a lot in the second half. The Lakers need LeBron to use his strength to have a big game.
Lakers Find a Way
I expect the Lakers to win a close game here, which is what makes the 5.5-point line difficult. The one thing that pushes me towards the Lakers is the horrible production from the bench in recent games. I expect someone on that unit to eventually make some shots, which should push them over the edge in this game. I’ll take the Lakers -5.5 at home.