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Pelicans trending well, favored to get past Kings

New Orleans hopes to win third straight game since the All-Star break

New Orleans Pelicans v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

The New Orleans Pelicans should be eyeing a finish higher than 10th in the Western Conference. Remember when that seemed unthinkable for the longest?

After falling 109-104 to the Mavericks, the Lakers are in free fall, having lost 15 of 21 contests.

Moreover, the Purple and Gold have the second-hardest remaining schedule left in the league, with only the Bucks stuck facing stiffer competition.

Sitting just two games in back of the Lakers in the loss column, this isn’t the time for complacency. The Pelicans need to find a way to beat the Kings tonight for the first time this season.

New Orleans dropped a couple of games to Sacramento right out of the gates. To be fair they lost all but one of their first 13 contests, but they need to make amends against a subpar squad.

The Kings offense (109.6 ORTG — 20th) and defense (114.2 DRTG — 29th) rank in the bottom third of the league. They’re not a good rebounding (48.9 REB% — 22nd) nor shooting (52.3 eFG% — 22nd) team.

Domantas Sabonis came over in a trade from the Pacers before the deadline and he’s fantastic. The numbers since joining the Kings prove it: 18.0 points, 13.0 rebounds and 6.0 assists. De’Aaron Fox and Harrison Barnes didn’t get moved and they remain good contributors as well. After that trio though, it is slim pickings for Alvin Gentry.

Newcomers Justin Holiday, Jeremy Lamb and Donte DiVincenzo have struggled to score efficiently and Davion Mitchell has been in search of his shot all season.

Sacramento is well on their way to missing the playoffs for a record 16th year in a row. The last time they did, Chris Paul walked away with the Rookie of the Year honors.

A New Orleans locker room with real aspirations of squeezing into the Play-In Tournament cannot register a third loss to these Kings in this campaign. Fortunately, we shouldn’t expect them to go down this road.

The Pelicans have won two straight and there’s evidence of rhythm on both sides of the ball. The offense has been much improved once the CJ McCollum era began, but since the All-Star break, the defense appears to be finding its footing.

New Orleans held the fourth-best scoring team in the Suns (113.6 PPG) to 102 points last Friday. The Lakers, who average 110.4 points per game, managed to only put 95 on the board against the Pelicans two days later.

Brandon Ingram and McCollum should continue to carry the scoring and playmaking loads, but if the team’s defense doesn’t prove a mirage, the Pelicans should notch their third victory in the last six days.

If another vote of confidence is needed, the oddsmakers agree. New Orleans is favored by five points.

Only 21 regular season games remain. It’s more important than ever to take care of business against mediocre squads at home. Let’s Geaux Pels!

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Who: New Orleans Pelicans (25-36) vs Sacramento Kings (23-40)

When: March 2, 2022, 7:00 p.m.

Where to watch: Bally Sports New Orleans, 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.