Game On: Los Angeles Lakers at New Orleans Pelicans
For the third time this season, the Pelicans head into a winnable game trying to get their record back to .500. The Lakers have been a fun team to watch this season, and have even knocked off some elite teams (the Clippers and the Rockets) but they are by no means a good team at this stage without Kobe Bryant. Currently they are 20th in defensive rating, and even more surprisingly, they are 25th in offensive rating. They have won a few games this year by using smoke and mirrors, but when those things don’t work, they simply get beat down by the opposition because they lack talent. Prior to last night’s game against the Rockets, where the Lakers seemingly made every three and used Hack-A-Howard to their advantage, they lost their other two road games by an average of 22 points.
All that said, the Lakers actually do some things that will give the Pelicans trouble. For the Pelicans to win tonight and get back to .500, they will have to do a couple of things.
Keys to the Game
1. Defend the Three-Point Line
This sounds obvious, but for multiple seasons now we have seen this haunt New Orleans. The Lakers lead the league in both three-pointers made and three-pointers attempted, and one-third of their total points come from behind the arc. The Pelicans, meanwhile, are in the bottom ten in the NBA in three-point field goals allowed and defensive three-point field goal percentage. If the Pelicans don’t get out to shooters and the Lakers hit them like they did last night (16-35), then Los Angeles might blow them right out of the building.
2. Force Turnovers
The Lakers have been relatively careful with the ball, and were a top eight team in turnover percentage before giving it to the Rockets 24 times last night. The Pelicans have the ability to pressure L.A. like Houston did and since Steve Nash will likely be out, they could trap the other guards and get turnovers that should lead to fast breaks.
3. Defend Pau Gasol with One Guy
Gasol is the most talented player on this roster, and might be the only guy who would get minutes on a high-end playoff team. But the Lakers other players go from horrible to adequate if you have to double Gasol due to his great court vision and their ability to hit uncontested jump shots. The Pelicans have to live with the results of playing Gasol one-on-one, rather than trying to stop him at the risk of having the other guys go off.