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Lakers vs Pelicans Preview: The battle for a play-in spot continues

The Lakers will likely have LeBron James and Anthony Davis back when they host the Pelicans for a pivotal matchup with play-in implications.

Los Angeles Lakers v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images

The Lakers are back on the court on Friday for a short turnaround on the second end of their current back-to-back, but this time they’ll at least be at home, where they’ll host the New Orleans Pelicans for these two sides’ second matchup of the week.

This game can easily be considered the most important one of the season given that the Lakers’ playoff hopes heavily rely on the outcome, which is a sentence no one could have predicted in the preseason. If you had told me then that the Lakers will desperately be competing for a play-in spot in March, I’d have thought that you were out of your mind, but alas, here we are.

The purple and gold (31-44), who are currently the 11th seed of the Western Conference, received a huge favor from the Memphis Grizzlies (like always, if you know what I mean) on Wednesday night after the latter pushed the San Antonio Spurs (31-45) down to the 11th seed of the Western Conference. But unfortunately the Lakers couldn’t capitalize, losing to the Utah Jazz (122-109) on Thursday, and falling right back down the standings as a result.

So that means right now, the blood bath for a play-in spot continues for the Lakers, Pelicans, and Spurs. And unfortunately, the Lakers have the toughest schedule left among the three and don’t have the tie-breaker advantage against either team.

That’s why — according to FiveThirtyEight’s playoff odds machine — Los Angeles has the lowest chance (3%) to make the playoffs, compared to New Orleans (29%) and San Antonio (6%).

It’s truly a cruel time to be a Lakers fan, isn’t it?

But for what it’s worth, Anthony Davis is reportedly expected to suit up tomorrow against his former team after missing 17 games. The Lakers have badly missed AD, as they lost 13 games during his absence despite LeBron James averaging the most points per game of his career (34.3) in March.

Whether or not Davis comes back 100% is still up in the air. But the Lakers desperately need the AD that typically averages 27.8 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 2.2 assists against the Pelicans to show up in order to have a shot for tomorrow’s crucial game.

Maybe that is a little unfair to ask of Davis in his first game back, but the Lakers don’t have a choice. The return of Davis at close to full form is the only hope they have to save this disastrous season.

Notes and updates

  • It seems like the good people over at DraftKing Sportsbook believe in the Lakers just a bit more than many of their fans in this one. They have the Lakers as two-point favorites to beat the Pelicans on Friday.
  • The Pelicans, who just beat the Lakers earlier this week, have now won two straight games after defeating the Portland Trail Blazers (117-107) yesterday. It seems the team has found its groove after two straight impressive games led by Brandon Ingram, CJ McCollum, Jonas Valanćiūnas, Jaxson Hayes and Trey Murphy III. The Lakers need to anticipate a competitive game on Friday.
  • LeBron James (sprained left ankle), who has missed two straight games, will test out his conditioning prior to Friday’s game and will be a game-time decision.
  • If you’re by any chance keeping track of James’ scoring title hopes, he needs to play at least three more games to be eligible to win the award (the Lakers have six remaining, including Friday’s contest). The King is currently tied (30.1) with Giannis Antetokounmpo who both lead Joel Embiid (30.0) by barely a point.
  • For news around the league, there were two remarkable games on today in case you missed it. The Milwaukee Bucks (48-28) rallied past the Brooklyn Nets (40-37) in a thrilling game that went to overtime. Meanwhile, former friend Alex Caruso and his Chicago Bulls (45-32) also got past the L.A. Clippers (37-40) in overtime as well. Ah, I remember how fun it was to win big games once upon a time.

Tip-off for the Lakers will be Friday at 7:30 p.m. PT on NBA TV and Spectrum SportsNet.

Check out DraftKings Sportsbook, the official sportsbook partner of SB Nation. And for more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Nicole on Twitter at @nicoleganglani.