The New Orleans Pelicans get one last crack at the Los Angeles Lakers.
For the regular season anyway.
The Lakers have won all three meetings as the teams prepare to finish the season series Sunday night in New Orleans.
If the Pelicans can grab the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference they’ll likely face the conference-leading Lakers in the first round of the playoffs.
But if they’re going to reach the postseason, they need to continue their second-half ascension — and a win against the Lakers would be a big boost.
New Orleans is 3-1 since the All-Star break, which moved the team from 11th place to ninth place, 2 1/2 games behind Memphis. The lone loss was a 118-109 setback at the Lakers on Tuesday night.
That was rookie Zion Williamson’s first game against the Lakers. He missed the first two meetings, when former Pelican Anthony Davis averaged 43.5 points and 11 rebounds. But with Williamson in the lineup, Davis had just 23 points and six rebounds.
New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry said the Pelicans “did a damn good job on Davis,” but “that other guy kind of gets in the way every now.”
That other guy, of course, is LeBron James, who scored 40 points in the last meeting.
New Orleans bounced back to handle Cleveland 116-104 on Friday to kick off a three-game homestand.
Brandon Ingram scored 29 points and Williamson had 24 points for his 10th consecutive game with at least 20 points.
“I think we just figure out who’s hot and just continue to go to him,” Ingram said of his productivity in tandem with Williamson. “Everybody tries to go to each spot where they feel comfortable so whoever’s hot we just continue to go to him and continue to find our rhythm.”
The Lakers have been in rhythm almost the entire season, but they had a season-low in points in a 105-88 loss at Memphis on Saturday.
That ended L.A.’s seven-game winning streak, its fifth streak of at least that many wins this season. It also ended the Lakers’ NBA-record streak of 18 consecutive road victories against Western Conference opponents.
“Just knowing if we want to get to where we want to get to, you have to win on the road, especially in the Western Conference,” Davis said of reaching the NBA Finals. “It’s our job to go in and look at the bigger picture and be prepared for something other than just one game.”
Despite the poor performance the Lakers still lead the West by 5 1/2 games.
“Our job is to go in and try to win every game, put our best foot forward and come out victorious,” Davis said.
“And we’ve been doing that a lot lately but there’s still a lot that we can get better at and that’s a scary thing for teams and a good thing for us that we’re not playing our best at all times and we’re still able to get wins.”
James returned after a one-game absence due to a sore groin and had 19 points and 10 assists in 34 minutes against Memphis. The loss prevented a sweep of the four-game season series against the Grizzlies.
–Field Level Media