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Lakers vs. Pelicans Game Preview: Start the road trip right

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The most winnable game of the Lakers’ long road trip is in New Orleans.

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers are embarking on a travel-heavy four-game road trip that features two sets of back-to-backs, beginning with a visit to Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans. The Lakers walked away victorious the last time these teams met, rattling off a great stretch once Davis left the game after tweaking his lower back. Davis would return, but it was far too little, far too late.

The Pelicans have been on the road toward improvement since then, though, winning five of their last eight games and squeezing in a four-game winning streak. Jrue Holiday’s return — he’s played six games this season — was an immediate boost to their year. Apparently it help’s having starting quality NBA players.

That’s what makes the absence of D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle so tough for the Lakers to overcome. Thomas Robinson did a good job filling in, but the sooner Randle can return the better. Julius went through full shootaround with the team in New Orleans, but the training staff will make a decision on his availability closer to tip-off.

Randle also told media that he doesn’t want to rush back on the court only to aggravate his hip injury, focused on being as healthy as possible for the long run. He went as far as saying the sacred “P” word — Playoffs — as to why he wants to make sure he’s good to go for the full 82 games, which is a thought to chew on for the .500 and much-improved Lakers.

They close out their journey in Memphis against the Grizzlies on Dec. 3, who just got the unfortunate news Mike Conley will be out indefinitely after suffering a fractured vertebrae. On paper, it looks like the Lakers should be in position to go at least 2-2 on this trip, even without Russell. Knock on wood, I apologize in advance.

Matching up with Davis all night is the obvious key for the Lakers. Luckily they have some depth to throw at him, especially if Randle returns, and this is a great opportunity for Larry Nance, Jr. to step up defensively. AD still put up 34 points and eight rebounds on a hobbled back last time around, so it’s obviously not all biscuits and gravy.

The Lakers could use a win to start the long trip ahead, with the Pelicans looking like their most winnable one of the lot. Enjoy the game!

Time: 5 p.m. PT

TV: Spectrum SportsNet