Lakers vs. Pelicans: 3 Things to Know (12/21/18)

Here is what you need to know before the Lakers return home to face the New Orleans Pelicans.

1) Both teams are hoping for reinforcements
The Lakers’ rotation has taken several hits over the past couple weeks, and they’re hoping to get back to full strength (or close to it) against New Orleans.

They have dropped back-to-back games without JaVale McGee, whose rim protection has been vital to the team’s defensive success this season. But McGee will miss his third in a row due to the flu.

It would be a huge boost to regain Brandon Ingram’s scoring and long-armed defense and/or Rajon Rondo’s playmaking. And now the Lakers have to worry about the availability of their star, LeBron James, who is questionable due to illness.

In the other locker room, the Pelicans find themselves in a similar situation, with Anthony Davis and Julius Randle considered questionable, while Nikola Mirotic is doubtful.

2) It’s a battle of similar styles
The Lakers and Pelicans mirror each other in various ways.

They are both efficient offenses, tying for the NBA’s third-best field goal percentage (47.8). This stems from their ability to get buckets inside, where New Orleans leads the league in paint scoring (57.1), just ahead of the Lakers (55.7).

And each club loves to speed up the tempo, with the Lakers running the NBA’s third-fastest pace (103.9 possessions), barely topping the Pelicans (103.8).

But the biggest similarity is that both teams are led by a world-class superstar.

LeBron James and Anthony Davis are currently tied for third in the league with 28.0 points per game. When it comes to scoring, both are monsters in the post and the pick-and-roll.

And each can affect the game in multiple ways, as Davis ranks among the NBA’s top seven in blocks and rebounds, while James is an elite passer.

3) There’s plenty of history between these squads
If he plays tonight, all eyes will be on Julius Randle, who would face his former squad for the very first time. Randle — drafted seventh overall by the Lakers in 2014 — has been one of the league’s premier reserves, ranking third in scoring off the bench (17.0) and second in rebounds (8.6).

This would also be a reunion for Rajon Rondo, who spent last year in New Orleans, thriving as the pilot of the Pelicans’ up-tempo attack and ranking fourth in the NBA in assists.

Plus, Tyson Chandler played three seasons for the New Orleans then-Hornets from 2007-09. And Lance Stephenson had a six-game cup of coffee with the Pelicans in 2016, while Wesley Johnson played for the Lakers from 2013-15.

Injury Report
LeBron James (illness), Brandon Ingram (sprained left ankle) and Rajon Rondo (right hand surgery) are questionable. JaVale McGee (flu-like symptoms) and Michael Beasley (personal reasons) are out. Isaac Bonga, Alex Caruso and Johnathan Williams are on G League assignment.

Pelicans: Anthony Davis (illness), Julius Randle (right ankle sprain) and Ian Clark (right ankle sprain) are questionable. Nikola Mirotic (right ankle) is doubtful. Elfrid Payton (fractured left finger) is out. Trevon Bluiett is on G League assignment.

Tip-Off: 7:30 p.m. PT
TV: Spectrum SportsNet in L.A. ESPN nationally.
Radio: 710 ESPN and 1330 KWKW
Unis: Purple City
Location: STAPLES Center — Los Angeles, California