Lakers hope to follow up from their win on Sunday.
The Lakers finally won a game in the regular season last Sunday. They hope it’s a start of something new for the team. Or they could go back to the freefall they were having before Sunday. Either way, it’s the second game of four at Crypto.com Arena as they face the young and talented New Orleans Pelicans.
The Pelicans have had to deal with some injuries early. Zion Williamson (21.8 points and 8.0 boards per game) has had to deal with a hip injury in addition to making a comeback from a broken foot. Brandon Ingram, who leads the team in scoring with 22.0 points per, has been in concussion protocol for more than a week now. He won’t be playing his former team. Herb Jones was dealing with a right knee injury. Jaxson Hayes had a bad elbow.
But these pesky Pelicans are 4-2 because this team has some pretty good depth. CJ McCollum (20.7 points, 7.2 assists per game) was one player that stayed healthy throughout. He hasn’t shot well from three this season but he’s always a threat to score anywhere. Jonas Valanciunas has been great for the Pelicans, averaging a double-double with 16.7 points and 10.5 boards per contest. Trey Murphy III has come in and shot the lights out at an incredible .543 from three in under 6 attempts from behind the arc. He took advantage of the minutes given to him; Murphy nearly tripled his scoring so far from averaging 5.4 points as a rook to 15.0 points in this young season.
Another Pelican that grabbed an opportunity with the minutes given is Naji Marshall. He has started the last three games, averaging 17.7 points in that span. He’s known to be a defense-first guy, which is how he’s been able to stay in the league. But the offense he’s provided has been a bonus for the Pelicans.
And the Pelicans still have Devonte’ Graham, Jose Alvarado (Grand Theft Alvarado is one of the best nicknames in the league today), and energetic ex-Laker Larry Nance, Jr. Like I said, this team is deep. When everyone is healthy, this team is to watch out for.
The Lake Show’s defense will be challenged big-time. The Pelicans are third in offensive rating at 117.5 points scored per 100 possessions, according to NBA.com, and they also lead the league in points per game (118.5). New Orleans lives inside as they are third in points in the paint. It helps to have big bodies like Valanciunas and Zion. The Pelicans don’t put up as many threes as most NBA teams do (28th in three-point field goal attempts) but they shoot .400 from behind the arc, which is good for second in the league. The Pelicans seem to know their strength.
Now the Lakers need to continue to have that pep in their step from Sunday’s win. For now, it’s an aberration for them to shoot the three like they did against Denver. But also, those shots felt more in rhythm than the previous five games. While New Orleans is a decent defensive team, the Lakers can’t afford to be sloppy and careless with the basketball. The Pelicans score a ton and the last thing the Lakers need is to give them more chances to score.
As always, the defense will be counted on to stop the high-level Pelicans offense. But for them to win, they’ll have to, here’s a concept, make shots. The Lakers hope that ex-Pelican Anthony Davis is ready to go for this game against his former team. His back has continued to bother him and he was visibly wincing in pain against the Nuggets. If he’s in, look for the Lakers to go to him often early. He scored 11 first quarter points on Sunday.
LeBron James will continue to do his thing, though he doesn’t have to take tough midrange jumpers like he did last game. Austin Reaves and Lonnie Walker IV was instrumental in their first win. I would love for Walker to take it more to the basket and shoot less threes. Troy Brown, Jr. has been solid on both ends.
Russell Westbrook seems to be embracing his new 6th man role. He’s played well off the pine and it definitely stood out Sunday because of the victory. If he can continue to provide the energy and calculated chaos (work with me here), the Lakers should be in good hands.
The Pelicans swept the Lakers last year in their three-game season series. And they didn’t have Zion Williamson all of last season. Now he’s back and looking pretty good. Pelicans have all their key rotation players available other than Ingram, who is still recovering from his concussion. As mentioned earlier, Davis is questionable with back tightness. Hopefully, he’s ready to go by gametime.
We’re in a new month and the Lakers’ last game was a win. So maybe this is also a fresh start and a new team, per se. Nevertheless, the Lakers are looking for their second straight win. There’s really no other option here. Tank lovers in Los Angeles will be disappointed about this: the Pelicans have the right to swap picks with the Lakers in this upcoming draft (which we all know has Victor Wembanyama as the coveted prize) as part of the Davis trade.
This makes this game even more interesting, doesn’t it? The Lakers will be looking for their second straight win. That already sounds like their longest win streak in two seasons.