Almost a month ago the Pelicans pummeled the Lakers 109-102 in the Smoothie King Center. Yes, pummeled in a game ultimately decided by seven points. The Lakers ended the game on an 11-0 run to close the margin but the game was rarely close with the Pelicans leading by double-digits throughout the competitive parts of the second half. The Pelicans stayed in Los Angeles last night to lick their wounds after back-to-back losses against the Warriors and Clippers. Blow out losses.
As Oleh noted before the first game against the purple and gold, it doesn't matter that Kobe Bryant is back in uniform. There is not a lot of talent on that roster this season and no one who has a chance to guard Anthony Davis. Furthermore, thanks to a team lacking rim protectors it should be the ideal opportunity to get Tyreke Evans back on track. Laker opponents are shooting 57.3% at the rim, 29th in the league.
In case you're wondering, the Pelicans are 14th at 51.6%; a significant improvement from 20th last season. Omer Asik will accept your thanks in the mail.
Kobe Still Kobe, Kind of
He still makes impossible shots. He has impeccable footwork. No one puts more effort into his game than Kobe Bryant. But now things just don't line up as frequently. In November Bryant scored 33 points. He also took 28 shots to get there. With Eric Gordon injured the matchup will likely fall on Tyreke's shoulders. The keys? First, don't foul too often; especially avoid cheap ones. Second, make Bryant, who has lost a step or two and has no functional big man as support, work on defense.
When Tyreke is not guarding Kobe I expect either Jrue Holiday or John Salmons to get the call. Yes, John Salmons. If there is a way for Kobe Bryant to go off against New Orleans it will be because Monty Williams decides there is some kind of rule against guarding people a decade older.
Three Keys to Victory
1 - Shake it Off: The Pelicans are 3-1 in the second game of a back-to-back this season. Wins over Charlotte, Sacramento, and Utah with a narrow loss at Washington. This team is young enough (and new to each other) that they need to learn to win. They are also young (and dumb) enough not to sulk about losses. This is more than I can say about most of my Twitter followers sadly.
2 - Remember Who You Are: Under the edict of Monty Williams the Pelicans have gone to force feeding Anthony Davis at odd points in games. Last night it came in the fourth as New Orleans went into Davis isolations repeatedly. That is not what makes him so amazing. That you look up and he has 25 and 12 is what makes him amazing and the perfect superstar to build around. He will get his in the process of the game. Don't break up the flow just to check boxes for the statisticians.
3 - Run, Don't Walk: If you want shots for Anthony Davis the best way to make that happen is early offense. Davis is shooting 69.7% (62/89) in the first nine seconds of the shot clock. Early offense is the best offense with a young team and the fastest big man in the league. Run Kobe Bryant and his teammates off the floor. The Pelicans has 18 fast break points and 60 (!?!) points in the paint the last game.
This is as close to a "must win" game the Pelicans have faced all season. 8-10 all things considered (schedule, still getting acquainted, Gordon's unfortunate injury) is a relative success. The Pelicans have kept near .500 by doing what they should; defend home court (5-2), and beat bad teams (6-1 against teams below .500). The rest of the month of December is brutal. Take advantage and beat a bad Lakers squad.
What: Pelicans @ Lakers
Where: Staples Center
When: December 7th, 8:30 PM
How: Fox Sports New Orleans, League Pass