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Pelicans look to restart playoff push against struggling Lakers

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Four games out, New Orleans nears must-win territory

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

What was meant to be smooth sailing has turned stormy, as the Pelicans continue to struggle after the excitement of the All-Star break. They’ll look to right the ship this Sunday, in what should be a good matchup with the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Pelicans have struggled to fit All-Star center Demarcus “Boogie” Cousins into their lineup, going 1-4 since acquiring the big man. That, however, does not mean there is no hope. After a promising game against the Spurs on Friday, New Orleans looks to find a new wave of momentum to bring them into the playoffs. At 24-38, the Pelicans sit 4 games back behind the 8th seed, still just within shouting distance. Every game from here on out is important, especially this Lakers game.

The Lakers, 19-43, have a young team that is re-tooling for the future. They traded Lou Williams at the deadline and seem to be in full tank mode in order to secure their 2017 first round pick, losing their last 6 games. This, however, does not mean the Lakers aren’t a threat. A few young players have looked promising for Los Angeles this year: Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, and D’angelo Russell are all averaging double digit points per game, and number two overall pick Brandon Ingram has turned it on as of late, scoring a career high 22 points just last week. Perhaps most importantly, don’t forget that the Lakers beat the Pelicans once this year already.

The key to a New Orleans win and playoff berth lies in how well the Pelicans can integrate Boogie Cousins into the team dynamic. All four games Boogie has played in for the Pelicans have resulted in a loss. The one game where he sat out, they won. As Boogie, The Brow, and Jrue Holiday continue to play together, the hope is that their styles begin to compliment each other. Perhaps the hardest of those roles falls onto Jrue Holiday, who has struggled to find his roll in the new Cousins era.

Holiday shot 27 times in the Friday loss to the Spurs, and in his other 3 losses with Cousins, he has only averaged 10 points on 28% shooting from the field. He is also only averaging six assists per game, a number that many around the Pelicans community thought would skyrocket with the addition of Cousins. The 27 shots from the field is a clear indicator—the Pelicans believe this team will only rise as high as Holiday takes them, and they plan to put him in the best position to do so.

Added pressure has been put on Holiday, beyond scoring as well. As the point guard, it’s Holidays job to manage all the personalities on the floor. If you have tuned into a Pelicans game since the all-star game, or a post game press conference, or heard anyone in the sports media talk about Demarcus Cousins, you know that Cousins can sometime be a handful on the floor.

Between the young guns on the Lakers, and the new-look Pelicans, there is no doubt there will be a lot of personality on display this evening.

Geaux Pelicans!!!

What: Pelicans at Lakers

Where: Staples Center — Los Angeles, CA

When: March 5, 2017 at 8:30 PM Central

How: Fox Sports New Orleans, TWSN, 99.5 FM WRNO