With 50 Wins and the Playoffs on the Line, Pelicans Prepared for Hollywood Finish to Regular Season

NEW ORLEANS – As if scripted by the basketball gods themselves, the New Orleans Pelicans will end their season with a critical match against the Los Angeles Lakers. The Anthony Davis-Brandon Ingram deal forever links the two teams. New Orleans must limit Davis to lock themselves into a playoff spot. If the Pels win, they won’t have to rely on a Phoenix loss to avoid the play-in. 

LA has troubled New Orleans this season, winning twice in dominant fashion. And since the All-Star break, the Lakers offense is scorching, ranking fourth (117.1) in offensive rating. They’ve departed from their normal defensive-oriented style, as LA’s offensive rating placed in the bottom 10 in the last three seasons.

LeBron James and Anthony Davis are as dynamic as ever and the Lakers use motion and cutting more than ever to generate easy buckets for their role players and stars. Davis still dominates as a post-up, putback and roll threat, eviscerating shorter teams (like New Orleans). 

Though the Pelicans could check Davis with Jonas Valanciunas, LA’s added spacing and better guard play this season complicates things. The Lakers entrust Austin Reaves with more playmaking duties, reaching a career-high 5.5 assists per game this season.

The Lakers entrust Reaves with quarterbacking responsibilities, running pick and rolls and initiating actions from up top. Pels defenders must watch for Reaves as an off-ball mover, as the Lakers deploy him as a shooter, cutter and screener to find him scoring and playmaking chances.

As most teams do, the Lakers struggle immensely to defend Zion Williamson, who overpowered them en route to 30 points in February. LA rolled out a 2-3 zone in the first quarter which Williams annihilated via cuts and drives to the cup. Even in man, the Lakers don’t have a defender on the roster with much of a prayer against Zion, forcing them to help hard at the rim.

Running more offensively slanted lineups with role players like Rui Hachimura, Reaves, D’Angelo Russell and Taurean Prince will allow the Pels offense to find a flow. As always, forcing the weaker defenders to defend stars and move around will create the most consistent and efficient offense.

Winning for the Lakers secures the eighth seed, meaning they’d only have to win one play-in game. New Orleans should treat this like a playoff game, as both teams gain significantly from victory. If the Pelicans limit the Lakers strong offensive attack, they’ll lock their spot in the postseason.

Analysis by Ben Pfeifer

Most Recent Starting Lineups

Los Angeles LakersNew Orleans Pelicans
G – D’Angelo RussellG – CJ McCollum
G – Austin ReavesG – Herb Jones
F – LeBron JamesF – Trey Murphy
F – Rui HachimuraF – Zion Williamson
C – Anthony DavisC – Jonas Valanciunas


Los Angeles Lakers: Anthony Davis (eye) and LeBron James (ankle) are PROBABLE. Jalen Hood-Schifino (back), Jarred Vanderbilt (foot), and Christian Wood (knee) are OUT.

New Orleans Pelicans: Brandon Ingram (left knee bone contusion) and Naji Marshall (left shoulder contusion) are QUESTIONABLE.

Who: Los Angeles Lakers (46-35) at New Orleans Pelicans (49-32)

Season Series

  • Dec. 7: Lakers def. Pelicans, 133-89 (Las Vegas, In-Season Tournament semis)
  • Dec. 31: Pelicans def. Lakers, 129-109
  • Feb. 9: Lakers def. Pelicans, 139-122
  • Apr. 14: Los Angeles Lakers at New Orleans Pelicans

Where: Smoothie King Center

When: Apr. 14, 2:30 PM CDT

Where to watch: Bally Sports New Orleans/ESPN

Where to listen: WRNO 99.5

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