There’s an unlikely date circled in the Los Angeles Lakers’ calendar: Sunday, March 27, the day L.A. takes on the New Orleans Pelicans at Smoothie King Center.
The game will have a significant impact on the race for the two last spots in the Play-In Tournament — which is now the only open path to the 2022 NBA playoffs the two teams have.
With about 10 games left in the regular season, the Lakers and the Pelicans seem on a collision course to face off in the tournament. But they are still battling for the No. 9 place in the Western Conference, which will host the 10th-placed side in the win-or-go-home clash of the first Play-In phase.
New Orleans has closed the gap on L.A. since early February — and even briefly jumped ahead last weekend before falling back to 10th. Also, the Pelicans triumphed in the first game of the season series, taking a crucial step toward securing a tiebreaker over the Lakers in the final standings.
Considering what’s at stake, the Purple and Gold expect to face the Pelicans in a playoff-like atmosphere.
“It’s a game that we definitely want to win,” Russell Westbrook said.
“I think if we have our mindset in the right place and do what we’ve been doing, play the right type of basketball, it will put us in position to be able to win the game. It’s gonna be a playoffs type of atmosphere for us because it’s definitely a must-win, I believe in our group.”
Stanley Johnson echoed Westbrook’s words, adding he “loves” when the NBA reaches this level of competitiveness.
“I think we’re gonna lace our shoes up and go out there and play some basketball,” Johnson said.
“That’s the only thing we can do. I think we’re pretty good; I think they’re pretty good, too. That’s why I love playing competitive basketball is for these type of games. This is what we’re playing for, so we’re gonna lace our shoes up, and they’re gonna lace their shoes up, and we’re gonna play some basketball.”
While battling it out on Sunday, the Lakers and the Pelicans have to watch their backs, too. The San Antonio Spurs are just within 2.0 games of the ninth place in the West, ready to capitalize on either team’s poor run in the last weeks of the season.
Anthony Davis could help Lakers in final weeks of regular season
The Lakers could soon receive a major boost ahead of the decisive part of the 2021-22 campaign, as latest reports claim Anthony Davis might make his comeback in the first week of April.
Davis has been sidelined since before the All-Star break, spraining his foot in the final game before the mid-season intermission.