The New Orleans Pelicans are tackling the Los Angeles Lakers, the team with the best record in the Western Conference (45-13) and the one responsible for three of the Pels’ 33 losses to date, a final time this regular season, and it sure would be nice to see New Orleans save a little face with a victory tonight.
Above all else, the race for the eighth seed has gotten particularly tight since the All-Star break so the Pelicans would do well to stay ahead of three other teams nipping on their heels and remain within two games of the Memphis Grizzlies.
Many expected for New Orleans to climb within 1.5 games of playoff seeding at the end of last night; however, the Lakers, who were riding a seven-game winning streak, dropped an egg last night in Memphis by losing 105-88 to the Grizzlies, who had lost five straight. Not surprisingly, this outcome has elicited conversation on social media about Los Angeles perhaps trying to shape their first round postseason matchup.
While it’s fun to think about the Lakers trying to duck Zion Williamson and their former players (Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart), I don’t buy it. For one, both Anthony Davis and LeBron James suited up. If a team plans on playing possum, then it’s best to not even subject stars to any action — LeBron played 34 minutes — or warmups at all. Then there’s the fact that Los Angeles has beaten New Orleans three times already so there shouldn’t be much to fear. And finally, it would be in L.A.’s best interests to secure home field advantage in the Western Conference as soon as possible so that Frank Vogel could dole out meaningful rest to key contributors before the start of a potential grueling road to the NBA Finals.
Now as for the theory that the Lakers will display more fire in today’s matchup is a totally different story. After a dismal showing 24 hours ago, one can bet LeBron is keen on not dropping two duds in a row. Plus, the Lakers seem to have formulated a solid game plan against the Pelicans as witnessed this past Tuesday in L.A’s 118-109 win over New Orleans.
Undoubtedly, the Pelicans are going to have to shoot the ball better from the perimeter (they shot 29.6% from 3-point range on Tuesday), limit the amount turnovers which lead to easy points for the Lakers, and do a better job of containing LeBron James (40 points on 17-27 shooting). While Zion seemed to handle his matchup with AD well, this will be no small feat as JJ Redick will be out with a hamstring strain and New Orleans doesn’t possess a prototypical defender to handle LeBron’s size. One thing is for sure though, Alvin Gentry should probably command the the defense to help Jrue Holiday when James catches the ball in good position in or around the paint. It’s just not a fair fight even though Jrue is one of the strongest and smartest defenders in the league.
Where To Watch/Listen
What: New Orleans Pelicans (26-33) vs Los Angeles Lakers (45-13)
Where: Smoothie King Center, New Orleans, LA
When: Sunday, March 1, 2020, 7:00 PM
Watch: FSNO, ESPN
Listen: ESPN Radio 100.3 FM