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Pelicans’ high-flying offense primed to beat LeBron’s Lakers

New Orleans could move to within 2.5 games of L.A. with a victory

Los Angeles Lakers v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

There’s two teams that the New Orleans Pelicans have not yet faced this season: the Charlotte Hornets, and tonight’s matchup, the Los Angeles Lakers.

Or maybe we should refer to them as the Fakers.

Before the start of the season, general managers across the league felt that the Lakers were a championship contender, giving them the second-highest odds of winning the 2022 NBA Finals outside of the Brooklyn Nets.

The Lakers currently occupy the ninth seed in the Western Conference, sitting 3.5 games ahead of the Pelicans in the standings.

The L.A. team is also trending the wrong way. Since Jan. 9, the Lakers have won just six of their previous 19 games. Their offense and defense rank in the bottom third of the league during this span.

LeBron James, who is questionable to play due left knee soreness, appeared in 14 of those contests. While his numbers have looked good (29.3 points, 9.1 rebounds, 6.0 assists), the Lakers haven’t as a whole. They’re simply a poorly put together team.

Anthony Davis has missed 22 games. Defensive sieves Carmelo Anthony and Malik Monk are the only legitimate threats from the outside. And the Russell Westbrook trade has been a flaming disaster.

Things have gotten so bad in Laker Land that LeBron has thrown GM Rob Pelinka under the bus, entertained the idea of going back to Cleveland and praised others outside the organization like Sam Presti in the past week.

When a passive-aggressive James shows up, you know things aren’t going well.

Well, what’s bad for the Lakers is probably good news for the Pelicans, and honestly, the time feels right to add a seldom victory against LeBron.

Since James’ arrival in Los Angeles, the Pelicans have beaten the Lakers just twice in eleven tries over the past three seasons. Although New Orleans has registered only two wins in six games of the CJ McCollum era, the arrow is pointing upwards.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Phoenix Suns Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Before the trade deadline, the Pelicans offense ranked 25th in the NBA (108.0 ORTG), but since CJ put on everyone’s favorite uniform, the team’s 117.2 offensive rating sits seventh. If you toss out McCollum’s debut where he clearly lacked the requisite energy and focus, the O-rating climbs to third (119.9 ORTG).

In their last game, a 117-102 victory over the Suns, McCollum and Brandon Ingram both shined, looking very much in tune with one another on the court.

If New Orleans can rely on this 1-2 scoring punch moving forward, they should rack up a tidy sum of wins — provided the defense isn’t horrible — over the remaining schedule. This is especially true with Willie Green’s recent tinkering.

Over the last few games, we’ve seen Devonte’ Graham moved into a reserve role and Garrett Temple found himself out of the rotation for the first time this season a few days ago.

While it’ll be fun to watch if McCollum and Ingram can approach the 60-point club together again, there isn’t potentially going to be a matchup more exciting than Herb Jones hounding LeBron.

The four-year rookie out of Alabama frustrated Devin Booker, not giving him the freedom to operate in Phoenix.

If foul trouble isn’t a major issue — keep your fingers crossed because the referees have seemingly not given Jones the benefit of the doubt much, LeBron may finally get to witness #NotOnHerb up close and personal.

Three cheers to The King on finding greater unhappiness.

Who: New Orleans Pelicans (24-36) at Los Angeles Lakers (27-32)

When: February 27, 2022, 9:00 p.m.

Where to watch: ESPN, NBA League Pass

Where to listen: ESPN 100.3 FM

For more Pelicans talk, subscribe to The Bird Calls podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @OlehKosel.