After a rough season opener in which they were blown out by the Clippers, the Los Angeles Lakers bounced back Friday night to beat the Phoenix Suns 132-130 on the road.
The Lakers saw brilliant games from their two young stars in Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram, leaving Laker fans very excited about what is to come in the future with their young core.
Los Angeles’ starting lineup will be bolstered Sunday night when they host the New Orleans Pelicans by the return of shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who missed the first two games due to a DUI suspension.
New Orleans has an outstanding frontcourt duo of Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins, so the Lakers big men will have a tough task Sunday night and that’s where we begin our preview:
When the Pelicans acquired Cousins at the trade deadline last year, many people wondered if he and Davis would be able to coexist and while the Pelicans are 0-2 on the season, the duo has proven that they can.
Davis is off to a monster start to the season, averaging 34 points and 17.5 rebounds so far, and Cousins is not far behind averaging 31.5 points and 12 rebounds.
Faced with the tough task of guarding them will be Brook Lopez and Larry Nance Jr. Nance did his best to guard Blake Griffin on opening night, and things don’t get easier for him as he will likely be matched up with Davis to start the game.
Ingram will shift back to his natural small forward position with the return of Caldwell-Pope after starting at shooting guard the last two games. Ingram had a career-high 25 points against Phoenix.
Lakers rookie Kyle Kuzma was also much better in the Lakers second game of the season, setting his career-high with 15 points. He, along with Julius Randle and Andrew Bogut should see a majority of the frontcourt minutes off Luke Walton’s bench.
The story of Friday night’s Laker win was the rookie Ball, who took over the game in the fourth quarter and nearly missed his first career triple-double with 29 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists.
Ball’s play should continue to improve, especially with the return of Caldwell-Pope, who will take a lot of pressure off the rookie by spacing the floor on offense and guarding the other team’s best guard each night.
On Sunday night that will be Los Angeles native and former UCLA Bruin, Jrue Holiday. The 27-year-old signed a long-term contract to stay in New Orleans this offseason. So far in two games though he has averaged 8.5 points, six rebounds and four assists while shooting just 25.9 percent from the field, so he will look to get going offensively.
With the Pelicans starting point guard, Rajon Rondo, out for an extended period of time due to injury, New Orleans signed veteran Jameer Nelson yesterday, so he could see his first game action Sunday night.
Three Keys To Victory:
Play through Ball: With a near triple-double, Ball proved to be as good as advertised in the Lakers last game. He has an extremely high basketball IQ and make good decisions when the ball is in his hands, so the Lakers need to get the ball to him as quick as possible after defensive rebounds so he can get them out in transition.
Make someone other than Davis or Cousins beat you: Davis and Cousins are too good to fully contain, but if the Lakers are able to get the ball out of their hands by double teaming them, the Pelicans supporting cast has not yet proven to be capable of making teams pay.
Limit turnovers: As is the case with most young teams, the LAkers have struggled with turnovers so far this season, averaging 19.5 in their two games. The better the Lakers take care of the ball, the easier it will be for them on both ends of the floor.
Los Angeles Lakers (1-1) Vs. New Orleans Pelicans (0-2)
6:30 P.M. PST, October 22, 2017
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN)/ 1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Lonzo Ball
SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
SF: Brandon Ingram
PF: Larry Nance Jr.
C: Brook Lopez
Key Reserves: Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, Kyle Kuzma, Alex Caruso, Andrew Bogut, Corey Brewer
Projected Pelicans Starting Lineup:
PG: Jrue Holiday
SG: E’Twaun Moore
SF: Dante Cunningham
PF: Anthony Davis
C: DeMArcus Cousins
Key Reserves: Tony Allen, Ian Clarke, Jameer Nelson, Darius Miller