The last time the Lakers played the Pelicans was in Las Vegas during the NBA In-Season Tournament semi-finals. The game highlighted the Lakers at their best, playing smash-mouth baskeball, just dominating the paint.
For the Pelicans, it was them at their worst, with no answer for LeBron James and Anthony Davis and their star Zion Williamson failing to show up in a big game. Now, they play not for the NBA Cup but for a game that will count in the standings to close out the calendar year.
Start time and TV schedule
Who: Los Angeles Lakers vs. New Orleans Pelicans
When: 4:00 p.m. PT, Dec. 31
Where: Smoothie King Center
Watch: Spectrum Sportsnet
The Lakers enter the game frustrated after a tough loss against the Timberwolves on James’ birthday. The Pelicans have been struggling, losing three of their last five. However, with Los Angeles playing on the second night of a back-to-back, James battling a non-COVID illness and D’Angelo Russell’s availability very much in question after suffering a tailbone contusion in the fourth, this is far from an easy win.
To get that victory, the Lakers must contain Zion, slow down Brandon Ingram and keep Jonas Valančiūnas off the glass.
If James sits, expect Rui Hachimura to get the start. Darvin Ham has started Hachimura every game James has missed this year and plugged him in when Reddish missed a game earlier this week. It seems like he likes his size and scoring ability with the starters.
Notes and Updates
- James’ and Russell’s availability will be the biggest question mark, but we have to wait for a concrete update on their status closer to game time. This is what the Lakers injury report looked like on Saturday prior to the Timberwolves game: Davis (left ankle sprain/bone bruise) and James (left knee contusion) were questionable. Cam Reddish (left groin soreness) was probable and Gabe Vincent (left knee surgery) was out.
- New Orleans is near full strength. Trey Murphy III is questionable (left knee soreness) and former Lakers legend Matt Ryan (right elbow surgery) is out.
You can follow Edwin on Twitter at @ECreates88.