LeBron James and company battled the Pacers down to the wire again but they got the desired result this time. After an 0-2 start on the road trip, they have won their last two and can end this trek with a winning record. Their last game? Against the New Orleans Pelicans.
You thought the Pacers were on a slump? The Pelicans are on a freefall. Once upon a time, they were third in the Western Conference. Then they lose Zion Williamson and suddenly, everything changed. They are now on a 10-game losing streak, actually under a game under .500, and at (somehow) the 11th spot in the West. The Lakers, now at 12th and 25-28, are now one game behind the New Orleans. Life in the NBA can really move at ya fast.
Well, now we know Zion Williamson makes them go. In the games Zion hasn’t played, the Pelicans aren’t too bad at 9-15. But the problem is this recent stretch. Williamson hasn’t played in the last 16 games and during that time, New Orleans is a terrible 3-13.
Their net rating (offensive minus defensive rating) is also down. Before Zion got hurt, they were a tidy 4.4, which was good for fourth in the league. In their current 3-13 stretch? They are -6.3, which is good (bad?) for 26th in the league since Jan. 4.
During that 10-game losing streak, they have had trouble scoring. They couldn’t even hit 100 points (which is rare now in today’s NBA) in three of those games when that only happened to them once beforehand. They need Zion back ASAP.
It’s not like they don’t have talent. CJ McCollum (21.2 PPG) is still there. Brandon Ingram has returned and slowly making his way back. Jonas Valanciunas is still a decent center. They have awesome young talent in Trey Murphy III, Herb Jones, Kira Lewis, and Naji Marshall. My favorite, Jose “Grand Theft” Alvarado, never stopped playing hard.
It’s just completely mental at this point. And you know they’re going to be desperate to get a win against the Lakers. Especially since their first time around was a heartbreaker. That Matt Ryan buzzer-beating three that sent the game to overtime feels like five years ago. I hope he’s doing well with the Timberwolves.
As for the Lakers, taking care of the ball will be key against New Orleans; last time against them, they had 17 turnovers. The Pelicans can still get it done in the paint even without Zion but they should be easier to overwhelm on both ends of the court. Remember that they have trouble scoring these days without him. And speaking of scoring, we’re also watching LeBron James as he is 63 points away from becoming the NBA all-time leading scorer. That is still ridiculous to me.
So the Lakers have a chance for three straight Ws. Yes, there’s no Zion but no one felt sorry for the Lakers when they went through their rash of injuries (speaking of, L.A. still doesn’t have Austin Reaves for this game). But now, the Lakers can attempt to leapfrog New Orleans in the standings this weekend, which was once thought laughable.
Just in time as the trading deadline approaches. Not that there’s anything going on in the rumor mill, right?