Lakers Vs. Pelicans Preview: No. 8 Spot On Line In Regular Season Finale
Rui Hachimura, Zion Williamson, LeBron James, Lakers, Pelicans
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The regular season finale is here for the Los Angeles Lakers as they in New Orleans to take on the Pelicans on Sunday afternoon. With the standings still being so close, this is the most important game of the year for the purple and gold.

After a similar uphill climb to the postseason as last year, L.A. has spent most of the second half trying to get as high as they can in the Western Conference standings. Now, they control their destiny on the final day of the regular season as a win over New Orleans will clinch the eighth spot going into the Play-In Tournament. That would give them a chance to clinch the seventh seed or another chance at the eighth seed as opposed to winning to need two straight Play-In games.

However, should the Lakers fumble this opportunity, it will result in dropping back down to the ninth or tenth seed depending on if the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings win. They are both playing inferior opponents so wins can be expected.

But for the Lakers, an up-and-down regular season boils down this matchup and could be a tremendous shot in the arm for L.A. heading into the Play-In Tournament.

Despite handling the Pelicans back on Feb. 9, New Orleans is riding a four-game winning streak and coming off an impressive win against the Warriors in San Francisco. CJ McCollum led the charge with 28 points, accompanied by eight 3-pointers. Then Zion Williamson chipped in 26 and Trey Murphy III with 24 points and six 3s.

It is impressive for New Orleans to tread water while Brandon Ingram missed over three weeks with a knee injury. However, now Ingram is making his much-anticipated return against the Lakers in a big game for both sides.

The Pelicans are vying for the sixth seed, hoping to stay out of the Play-In, setting this up to be a competitive matchup. This is a game where the Lakers miss Jarred Vanderbilt as he has shown the ability to guard the former Laker Ingram extremely well.

While there may be some expected rust for Ingram, Rui Hachimura is going to need to guard him with force and make him take tough shots. The same goes for McCollum, as Austin Reaves and Gabe Vincent are going to be the main defenders on the 32-year-old guard.

Then for Williamson, clogging the paint is key to make him finish through LeBron James and Anthony Davis. In what should be an electric Smoothie King Center, the Lakers two stars need to set the tone early.

However, some help is going to be needed in particular with D’Angelo Russell, who is on a three-game skid of poor shooting. Getting him back on track offensively is greatly needed to get a win and head into the Play-In with positive energy.

Los Angeles Lakers (46-35) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (27-53)

12:30 p.m. PT, Sunday, April 14, 2024
Smoothie King Center, New Orleans, Louisiana
TV: Spectrum SportsNet, ESPN
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA

Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:

PG: D’Angelo Russell
SG: Austin Reaves
SF: LeBron James
PF: Rui Hachimura
C: Anthony Davis

Key Reserves: Taurean Prince, Spencer Dinwiddie, Jaxson Hayes, Gabe Vincent

Projected Pelicans Starting Lineup:

PG: C.J. McCollum
SG: Herb Jones
SF: Brandon Ingram
PF: Zion Williamson
C: Jonas Valanciunas

Key Reserves: Jose Alvarado, Dyson Daniels, Trey Murphy III, Naji Marshall, Larry Nance Jr.

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