The Los Angeles Lakers need to pile up the wins now as they take on a minutes-restricted Jrue Holiday, no Anthony Davis, and the New Orleans Pelicans.
In a normal matchup against the Pelicans, stopping Davis is the prime concern, as in their last time meeting, Davis completely dominated with 30 points, 20 rebounds and five assists. However, the Pelicans have made it known that they are restricting Davis to just 20-25 minutes per night, and they will be sitting him on the second night of a back-to-back, which means he will be out tonight against the Lakers.
But while the awkwardness surrounding Davis and the Lakers’ pursuit for him is certainly an interesting storyline, what’s more important is their playoff push. With just 24 games remaining, the Lakers sit at .500 and a mere three games out of the six seed.
The Utah Jazz, San Antonio Spurs and Clippers are all in a three-way tie for sixth.
In order to cement a spot in the playoff race down the final stretch, the Lakers need to win all their games against inferior opponents. They already defeated the Pelicans this season, 112-104, when Davis and Holiday played 39 and 38 minutes, respectively. With Davis out and Holiday on a minutes restriction, the Lakers will need to assert their dominance.
This means a majority of the Pelicans offense when Holiday is off the floor will come down to Julius Randle, E’twaun Moore, Elfrid Payton, Jahlil Okafor and Chieck Diallo.
The Lakers came up with a huge win on Thursday night against the Houston Rockets, and with the schedule they have coming up, a 4-0 start out of the break is achievable, which could be huge in the standings.
Brandon Ingram is coming off of one of his best games of the year, scoring 27 points and grabbing 13 rebounds in the win against the Rockets. LeBron James also did spectacular work in his first game of playoff activation mode, putting up 29 points, 12 assists and six rebounds.
Josh Hart also appears to be getting back to his old self. In 19 minutes against the Rockets he was a plus-22, but wasn’t able to do much else in terms of stat collecting. Hopefully with each game he can further shake off his knee injury. However, Reggie Bullock has found his stride in this Lakers offense, scoring 14 points including the game icing 3-pointer.
The Lakers need to win almost every night from now until the season ends, but in games like this, where the opponent is both less talented and restricting their best players, it’s beyond necessary. The Lakers must avoid falling into the trap of playing down to their opponent, and if they can, they should be able to run away with this one.
Los Angeles Lakers (29-29) vs. New Orleans Pelicans (26-34)
4:00 P.M. PT, Feb. 23, 2019
Smoothie King Center, New Orleans, Louisiana
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN)/1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Brandon Ingram
SG: Reggie Bullock
SF: LeBron James
PF: Kyle Kuzma
C: JaVale McGee
Key Reserves: Rajon Rondo, Josh Hart, Lance Stephenson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Projected Pelicans Starting Lineup:
PG: Elfrid Payton
SG: Jrue Holiday
SF: Kenrich Williams
PF: Julius Randle
C: Jahlil Okafor
Key Reserves: Chieck Diallo, Stanley Johnson, Frank Jackson, E’Twaun Moore
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