The Los Angeles Lakers missed their chance to climb to .500 on Sunday and now will need to bounce back on the road against the New Orleans Pelicans. This is an absolutely crucial contest for both teams as the Lakers and Pelicans are in a three-way tie with the Oklahoma City Thunder for the last two Play-In Tournament spots. The winner of this game will move up into a tie with the Dallas Mavericks for eighth in the Western Conference.
In order for the Lakers to turn things around and get back in the win column, they will need Anthony Davis to return to the level he was playing at previously. After being dominant with at least 28 points in six of the previous seven games, Davis has put up back-to-back disappointing offensive performances.
While he has still continued to impact the game in other areas, particularly on the glass and the defensive end, the Lakers sorely need Davis to be the primary offensive weapon with LeBron James still out due to injury. He undoubtedly still has a second scorer to play off of as D’Angelo Russell has been scorching hot since returning from his ankle injury.
Russell is averaging 30.5 points and 8.5 assists in his two games back with the Lakers while knocking down 11 3-pointers combined in those two contests. Though he and Davis are admittedly still figuring out their chemistry, the potential of those two to dominate in the pick-and-roll is very high and needed to carry this Lakers offense.
It will also be crucial for the Lakers to continue to get these outstanding efforts from their bench unit. The group of Austin Reaves, Dennis Schroder, Wenyen Gabriel and Rui Hachimura have truly changed games when they get on the floor on both ends of the court. The Lakers have thrived recently because of their defense, one of the best since the All-Star break and that is a credit to both the starters and this reserve group.
The key to this contest for the Lakers could be their starting wings, however. Malik Beasley has been in a slump for the past couple of weeks while Troy Brown Jr. went 0-for-8 overall and 0-for-7 from deep against the Knicks. At least one of the two will need to step up in this big road contest.
The Pelicans may be getting back second-leading scorer and former Lakers draft pick Brandon Ingram. He is listed as questionable after missing the last couple of games with an ankle sprain.
This would be a huge return as Ingram is capable of taking over games with his mid-range expertise and is also a solid creator as well. The primary onus will surely fall to Jarred Vanderbilt to help limit Ingram, but Brown and Hachimura will also see their time on him as well if the Pelicans star is able to play.
The Pelicans do have other capable options in veterans CJ McCollum and big man Jonas Valanciunas, whose physical presence in the paint has given the Lakers problems in the past. The Lakers would also do well to stick close to Trey Murphy III, who is coming off a career-high 41-point performance in which he knocked down nine 3-pointers.
Defense will be key for the Lakers once again as New Orleans is a team known to give up turnovers, which would play right into the Lakers hands of getting out in transition. If the defense is locked in, it should lead to easy buckets and a win for the Lakers, but the Pelicans have more than enough firepower to make the Lakers pay if they aren’t focused.
Los Angeles Lakers (33-35) vs. New Orleans Pelicans (33-35)
5:00 p.m. PT, March 14, 2023
Smoothie King Center, New Orleans, Louisiana
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: D’Angelo Russell
SG: Malik Beasley
SF: Troy Brown Jr.
PF: Jarred Vanderbilt
C: Anthony Davis
Key Reserves: Dennis Schroder, Austin Reaves, Rui Hachimura, Wenyen Gabriel, Lonnie Walker IV
Projected Pelicans Starting Lineup:
PG: CJ McCollum
SG: Herb Jones
SF: Brandon Ingram
PF: Trey Murphy III
C: Jonas Valanciunas
Key Reserves: Josh Richardson, Naji Marshall, Dyson Daniels, Larry Nance Jr.
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