New Orleans must find a way to saddle Los Angeles with a loss for several key reasons.
Only 1.5 games separate this aforementioned trio of teams in the standings. Two will in all likelihood squeeze into the Play-In Tournament. One will go home massively disappointed.
Recording as many wins over the eight remaining regular season games as possible is obviously the goal, but handing the Lakers an L tonight would also cement the tiebreaker between the two teams in New Orleans’ favor.
There’s an added incentive to beating L.A.: if the Lakers 2022 first-round pick falls in the 1-10 range, the Pelicans get to keep it. If not, it’ll go to the Memphis Grizzlies. Thus, New Orleans could greatly help their cause in retaining this valuable draft asset by taking care of business against the Lakers twice more on the remaining schedule.
When these two teams last met on Feb 27., the Pelicans crushed the Lakers 123-95. They shot the ball much better from the field than the opponent and had Brandon Ingram in uniform.
Getting Ingram back into the fold is crucial. New Orleans is 6-17 without their star; 25-26 with him in the lineup. He has missed 10 straight games with a right hamstring injury, but sentiment is growing that he’ll be available against Los Angeles.
Although Anthony Davis continues to miss time, the Lakers are expected to have LeBron James in the starting lineup after his one-game absence against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Another item in L.A.’s favor: they’ve had three days off to contemplate this matchup while New Orleans suffered through a hard-fought loss about 24 hours ago.
Head coach Willie Green mentioned last night, though, the games on this home stand are a good test for the Pelicans.
“It doesn’t feel good losing, but we’ve got to continue to go through these type of games so that we can continue to build our program. We’ll win our fair share, but I like our hard work, our effort and our competitiveness. Now we just have to clean it up and execute a bit better down the stretch.”
It’s vital for the Pelicans to learn how to win the close ones soon. Since CJ McCollum, Larry Nance Jr. and Tony Snell arrived from Portland, New Orleans has posted a 1-5 clutch record. (They’re 11-18 overall on the season.)
These Lakers are not world-beaters, but they’re good enough to walk into the Smoothie King Center and get by the Pelicans. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen.
When: March 27, 2022, 6:00 p.m.
Where to watch: Bally Sports New Orleans, League Pass
Where to listen: ESPN 100.3 FM