Game On: New Orleans Pelicans @ Los Angeles Lakers

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Published: January 12, 2016

The New Orleans Pelicans (11-25) take on the Los Angeles Lakers (8-31) in a battle of the two teams with the worst records in the Western Conference. The New Orleans Pelicans enter the game trying to pick up a win after losing three straight, including an overtime loss against the Los Angeles Clippers  114-111. Star Anthony Davis is questionable with a back contusion, while the Pelicans announced yesterday they will be without Quincy Pondexter for the remainder of the season.

The New Orleans Pelicans swept the season series last year, the first time they have ever accomplished that feat in franchise history. The Pelicans have also won six of the last seven (prior to that, the Lakers had won 16 of 18.)

Kobe Bryant’s farewell tour has taken over the Los Angeles Lakers’ season. The improving play of rookie D’Angelo Russell, and 15-minutes-away-from-being-a-rookie Julius Randle has been the most encouraging thing of the season for the Lakers. The Lakers have the worst record in the Western Conference, the worst +/- in the conference, the worst Defensive Rating in the league, and the worst eFG% in the league. Brandon Bass is doubtful for the game, while Bryant is questionable.

According to ESPN, the New Orleans Pelicans have had the hardest schedule in the league so far, with the game against the lowly Lakers marking the beginning of an easier stretch. For the Pelicans to make a run at the playoffs, they will need to win this game. They have struggled mightily on the road at 4-16.

Here are the keys to the game:

Score (Over 100 Points)!: No reason to complicate this. The Lakers’ defense is terrible. They have one player who can make an impact on defense (Roy Hibbert.) Hibbert is averaging 1.67 blocks per game (the only Laker to average a block a game), but he also is averaging over three fouls in barely over half a game. The Pelicans have also won all 11 of their games this season in contests that they’ve eclipsed the century mark. There is literally no one on this Lakers’ roster that should be able to even remotely deter the Pelicans from their sets. Run the offense, and have a good scoring game.

Defend!: This should also be easy though the New Orleans Pelicans’ defense hasn’t been much better than the Los Angeles Lakers. The Pelicans have the 28th best Defensive Rating in the league. The biggest fear for the Pelicans is if one of the Lou Williams, Nick “Swaggy P” Young, or Kobe Bryant trio get on. Those guys, especially Williams (who just went off for 44 points against the Oklahoma City Thunder, including 23 in the 4th quarter to nearly pull off the upset) and Bryant, can both get hot and ruin what should be a good night for the Pelicans.

Heart and Hustle: More than anything, the Pelicans inconsistency has been the most troubling this season. While progress is rarely linear, those inconsistencies in heart and hustle amongst the team may be the most problematic. New Orleans has done a great job the last two games playing hard (especially considering Davis has barely played). The team starting to give consistent effort night in and out would be a great sign of progress.

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