For the 2nd time in a week the Lakers will face off vs. the Pelicans — this time in New Orleans. The first time LeBron proved to be the best player on the floor, scoring 40 points in a close win where he really was the difference in the outcome. That game also saw Zion and Brandon Ingram do major damage, but that was mostly offset by Anthony Davis’ strong second half and Danny Green’s hot shooting (and Alex Caruso’s defense, hustle, and high IQ plays).
It’s the 2nd game in two nights for the Lakers, though it’s hard to call last night’s effort a “game”. The Lakers barely looked like they wanted to be there, losing in every way imaginable. They were poor defensively, worse offensively, and were sluggish overall. Danny Green didn’t play and the Lakers sorely missed his floor spacing and defense. Green will be available tonight, however.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that AD has a sore knee and is a game time decision. I’m hoping AD sits, particularly with the slate of games that await the Lakers when they return home — Philly, Milwaukee, Clippers are a gauntlet and it’d be nice to have everyone available for those games.
Back to tonight — the Pelicans are fighting for their playoff lives and after the Grizz beat the Lakers last night, they’ll need a win tonight to keep pace. They’ll be without JJ Redick, but with Ingram, Jrue, Zion, and Lonzo they should still have plenty of scoring punch available. I’d think Josh Hart will see more time in this one, particularly as a defensive option against LeBron. The last time these teams played, Bron abused Jrue in the post, who simply didn’t have the strength to keep him from getting to the rim. Hart and his sturdier build could offer more resistance in this area. We’ll see if Gentry turns to him, though.
The biggest key to this game will be tempo. The Pels play at a breakneck pace and Gentry wants them to run on every possession vs. this Lakers team that can sometimes be lax in defensive transition. The Lakers will need to counter this approach with strategic runouts, but by mostly skewing towards halfcourt offense to slow the tempo of the game down. If the Lakers control the pace, they can, hopefully, keep the Pelicans under wraps offensively and then make them defend extended possessions where they can be mistake prone.
Beyond that, this game will be about effort. If the Lakers bring some, I think they’ll be okay. If they don’t, they could end up going 0-2 on this back to back swing.
Where you can watch: 5:00pm start time on Spectrum SportsNet and ESPN.