It’s round three Tuesday night for two teams who will be forever linked together, as the New Orleans Pelicans (25-32, 10th West) visit the Los Angeles Lakers (43-12, 1st West). The Lakers got the better of the first two meetings, but this is the first time they will face the rookie phenom, Zion Williamson.
Here is a preview for tonight’s game, along with odds and a free pick.
By the Numbers
The Pelicans have quickly become a team on the rise, winning back-to-back games and seven of their last 10 overall. Currently, they occupy the 10-seed, trailing the 8-seed Grizzlies by just three games.
All year, New Orleans has been one of the better offensive teams in the league. They are averaging 116.0 points per game, the fourth-highest in the league, on 46.2 percent shooting.
They are one of the best three-point shooting teams in the league at 37.6 percent, averaging the third-most threes with 14.3. The Pelicans are also second with 11.1 offensive rebounds and third with 26.6 assists.
Defense is a whole different story, as the Pelicans also allow 117.0 points, the third-most in the NBA, 46.5 percent shooting. Fortunately, they don’t give up a ton of threes, sitting around the middle of the pack with 12.0 threes allowed on 35.7 percent shooting. New Orleans is also averaging 7.4 steals and ranks in the top 10 with 5.2 blocks.
Meanwhile, the Lakers continue to roll in their quest to secure home-court advantage throughout the postseason. After an overtime win on Sunday against Boston, L.A. has five wins in a row and seven wins over their last 10.
Los Angeles is seventh in the NBA with 114.8 points per game on a league-best 48.7 percent shooting. Even though they rank highly in those stats, they’re just average from deep, with 11.2 threes made on 36.2 percent. However, L.A. is within the top-10 with 10.7 offensive rebounds and 26.2 assists.
The Lakers are still very good on defense, allowing an average of 107.4 points per game, which ranks sixth. They are holding opponents to 44.7 percent shooting overall and 34.9 percent shooting from deep, sixth and 10th, respectively. L.A. is also averaging a strong 8.5 steals, third in the league, while also blocking a league-best 6.9 shots.
Who to Watch
As mentioned earlier, this will be the first time Zion Williamson faces the Lakers this season. This year’s number one overall pick has scored at least 20 points in eight straight games, the latest being a 28-point performance on 13-of-20 shooting on Sunday against the Warriors.
In 12 career games, Williamson is averaging 22.8 points and 7.2 rebounds and has instantly put the Pelicans back in postseason contention.
In addition to Williamson, Jrue Holiday and Brandon Ingram should play major roles for New Orleans tonight. Sunday evening, Holiday has 23 points and 15 assists against Golden State, and now averages just under 20 points on 44.5 percent shooting.
Meanwhile, Ingram leads the team in scoring with 24.5 points per game and has shot 44.4 percent from three in his last 10 games.
Of course, all eyes will be on Anthony Davis as long as these two teams play each other. The former Pelican has torched his former team in both encounters this season, both of which were wins for the Lakers. In his return to New Orleans, Davis scored 41 points and had a late steal to seal the win.
Then last month, he dropped 46 points and 13 rebounds. In addition to averaging 26.8 points and leading the team in all major categories except assists, Davis is must-watch tonight.
Los Angeles will also have the benefit of sending out LeBron James to the court alongside Davis. James is once again having a phenomenal season in his 17th season in the NBA, averaging 25.2 points and a league-leading 10.7 assists.
On Sunday afternoon against the Celtics, the King had 29 points, nine assists and eight rebounds, including the game-winning shot with less than 30 seconds to go.
Odds and Pick
Both teams are playing well coming into tonight, but the home team is getting some love. Oddsmakers have put the Lakers at -7.5, who are 20-7 at home facing a team which is 14-15 on the road.
I actually think this will be a competitive game tonight. Davis will raise his level once again, but so will former Lakers Ingram and Lonzo Ball. The addition of Williamson is the ultimate wild card, and he could be the difference tonight. I’ll take the Lakers to win, but Pelicans +7.5 to cover.