LeBron James and Anthony Davis return from injuries for Friday’s clash against the New Orleans Pelicans, as the Los Angeles Lakers Big 3 timely reunites for the final games of the 2021-22 regular season.
Kendrick Nunn remains unavailable due to the bone bruise in his knee, which will likely rule him out for the remainder of the season. Carmelo Anthony has also been ruled out of this game due to a non-COVID illness.
Meanwhile, the Pelicans are still without Zion Williamson, who is yet to make a 2021-22 season debut.
Davis’ comeback should be a game-changer for the Lakers, who gave up a 20-point lead to fall to New Orleans in a crucial game for the Play-In Tournament race last Sunday.
The 29-year-old forward should fill some of the holes in L.A.’s defense that the Pelicans took advantage of last week. With Davis on the court, the Lakers seem better equipped to deal with Brandon Ingram’s lethal mid-range game and the 3-point threat posed by various Pelicans sharpshooters.
Rookie Trey Murphy III went 4-for-7 (57.1%) from downtown last Sunday, keeping New Orleans’ comeback going in the second half. Overall, Murphy, Herb Jones, and CJ McCollum shot a combined 9-for-19 (47.4%) from beyond the arc.
Davis’ presence should limit the number of open looks along the perimeter the Pelicans will get on Friday. Another Lakers goal for the night will be to take better care of the ball after ending up with 15 turnovers — having only forced seven by the Pelicans — in the previous meeting.
Rookie Herb Jones himself recorded career-high six steals. The Pelicans outscored L.A. 7-2 in fastbreak points in the second half, which only provided extra fuel for their comeback.
New Orleans thrives at stripping the ball off of their opponents and turning the steals into points in transition — and the Purple and Gold need to make sure they won’t fall into that trap again on Friday.
The fight for the ninth place in the Western Conference — which earns home-court advantage in the first Play-In round — is far from over. Although New Orleans secured a tiebreaker over the Lakers with last week’s win, a victory over the Pelicans would place L.A. just 1.0 games behind them in the standings.
With James and Davis back, the Purple and Gold should be well-positioned to secure this win, making the Play-In race all the more interesting.
Lakers (31-45) vs. Pelicans (33-43)
7:30 p.m. PT, April 1, 2022
Crypto.com Arena, Los Angeles, California
TV: NBA TV, Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Russell Westbrook
SG: Avery Bradley
SF: LeBron James
PF: Anthony Davis
C: Dwight Howard
Key Reserves: Austin Reaves, Stanley Johnson, Malik Monk, Talen Horton-Tucker, Wayne Ellington, D.J. Augustin
Projected Pelicans Starting Lineup:
PG: CJ McCollum
SG: Brandon Ingram
SF: Herb Jones
PF: Jaxson Hayes
C: Jonas Valanciunas
Key Reserves: Devonte’ Graham, Jose Alvarado, Trey Murphy III, Naji Marshall