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Pelicans to face desperate Lakers’ squad

The final game before the All-Star break is a big one!

Los Angeles Lakers v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

The New Orleans Pelicans’ final game against the Los Angeles Lakers before the start of the All-Star break is a big one from several perspectives.

The Lakers are like a wounded animal, having lost seven of their last 11 games. They sit 2.5 games out of the play-in tournament seedings before tonight’s slate of action and there’s no more time to waste, with only 24 contests remaining on their regular season schedule. However, there’s hope in Los Angeles.

Russell Westbrook was shipped off to Utah for Malik Beasley and Jared Vanderbilt last week. D’Angelo Russell arrived from Minnesota in the same deal. The Lakers also added Mo Bamba and Rui Hachimura before the trade deadline.

While they’ve posted an 11-14 record in games that both LeBron James and Anthony Davis have suited up, the talent level around the duo has been clearly upgraded. The expectation is that wins should follow — provided the two stars are healthy.

James has missed three consecutive games with left ankle soreness and he’s listed as questionable to play against New Orleans. However, it’s highly improbable James sits tonight.

Darvin Ham had an expectation several days ago that James would be on the court for this matchup. James was also able to get through an extensive workout when the Lakers were in Portland, per ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. And let’s be real, when’s the last time that James sat out against the Pelicans?

On today’s episode of NBA Today, McMenamin revealed he had talked to Davis after the Lakers lost to the Trail Blazers and Los Angeles has their sights set on beating New Orleans.

“I talked to {Anthony Davis} in the locker room after Portland. Obviously, they wanted to win that game and they know all these games count, but there’s still a positive vibe here. AD’s concern is like, ‘we’ve just got to get the win on Wednesday night. Everybody needs that feeling going into the break.’”

McMenamin also noted that the Lakers have not had a full practice with their newest acquisitions yet. They are scheduled to go through a walk-through together today, however.

Pushing the Lakers further down in the standings would help the Pelicans on several fronts.

New Orleans is clinging to seventh in the Western Conference. After losing 10 straight, they’ve won four of their last five. The ship has been steadied, but continuing with those winning ways, the Pelicans would take a step closer to finishing inside the top 6 and cementing a spot in the playoffs outright.

Handing Los Angeles another L is also key for the 2023 NBA Draft. Remember, the Pelicans own swap rights regarding the teams’ upcoming first-round picks. The Lakers have the seventh worst record in the league at the moment, which carries 7.5% odds of landing the top pick and a 32.0% chance of getting inside the top 4. Assisting the Lakers to their poorest possible finish in the standings could be extremely rewarding for the future.

Fortunately for New Orleans, Brandon Ingram is playing some of the best ball of his career.

A lot of other Pelicans have been contributing positively too, including Josh Richardson in Monday’s victory over the Thunder.

So, entering the eight-day All-Star break on a high while bruising egos in Los Angeles one more time sounds like the perfect result. Can New Orleans play well enough to overcome what should be a desperate Laker team though? Let’s hope!

Who: New Orleans Pelicans (30-28) at Los Angeles Lakers (26-32)

When: February 15, 9:00 p.m. CT

Where to watch: Bally Sports New Orleans, ESPN, League Pass

Where to listen: WRNO 99.5

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.