(Photo By: Ty Nowell/Los Angeles Lakers)
Lakers at Pelicans: 3 Things to Know (3/31/19)
Here is what you need to know before the Lakers’ Big Easy matchup with the New Orleans Pelicans.
1) LeBron’s first Lakers season is officially over
The Lakers announced on Saturday that LeBron James will miss the team’s final six games of the season.
After consulting with team doctors and medical staff, President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson and General Manager Rob Pelinka made the decision in order to “allow his groin to fully heal.”
James’ groin strain suffered on Christmas Day cost the Lakers dearly, as they went from fourth place in the Western Conference to missing the playoffs altogether. In his five-week absence — the longest of his career — and occasional missed games for load management, L.A. went just 6-15 (compared to 28-27 with him).
LeBron ends his first year with the Lakers as the only player among the NBA’s top five in both scoring and assists, ranking fifth in points (27.4) and third in dimes (8.3).
2) L.A. is looking for last game’s firepower
The Lakers have won three of their last four contests, including Friday’s 14-point victory over Charlotte. That was one of their best offensive performances of the season, which included their second-highest field goal percentage (56.0), fourth-best 3-point percentage (47.4) and third-most triples (18).
While true that James (27 points, nine assists) played a large role in that eruption, it was a definitive team effort.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was feeling it from deep, hitting six 3-pointers en route to 25 points. Kyle Kuzma attacked the rack for 20 points. Lance Stephenson hustled his way to a 14-point, 13-rebound double-double.
And at the center of it all was Rajon Rondo, who racked up 17 assists, tying Kobe Bryant for the most by a Laker over the last 21 years. Rondo had the game fully in his grasp, orchestrating the team’s half-court offense while also making some spectacular transition plays, including a behind-the-back dish to Johnathan Williams.
Rondo also brought some playmaking to the defensive side, joining James Harden and Russell Westbrook as the only players this season with at least 15 assists and five steals in the same game. He’s also the first Laker to hit that mark since Magic Johnson back in 1989.
3) Tough stretch in New Orleans
Lakers fans can relate to the Pelicans’ injury woes, as five of their players — including impressive two-way guard Jrue Holiday — are out for this game.
While superstar Anthony Davis is probable to play, his playing time has been limited lately, averaging only 22.0 minutes (less than one half) in his last 15 games.
And although New Orleans has won just twice in its last 11 games, it is still the third-highest scoring team in the NBA and is running at the league’s fastest pace of late.
Former Laker Julius Randle has ascended among the NBA’s top three scoring centers and is coming off a 34-point performance in Thursday’s win over Sacramento. Elfrid Payton (who had five consecutive triple-doubles earlier this month) and waiver-wire pick up Christian Wood (48 points in his last two games) also make the Pelicans a dangerous bunch.
Lakers: Reggie Bullock (right plantar fasciitis) is questionable. LeBron James (sore left groin), Tyson Chandler (flu), Brandon Ingram (thoracic outlet decompression, right arm), Lonzo Ball (left ankle sprain) and Josh Hart (right knee debridement procedure) are out.
Pelicans: Anthony Davis (lower back spasms) is probable. Jrue Holiday (core muscle injury), E’Twaun Moore (left quadriceps contusion), Darius Miller (left abductor strain), Frank Jackson (concussion) and Trevon Bluiett (right thumb surgery) are out.
Tip-Off: 3 p.m. PT
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 ESPN and 1330 KWKW
Unis: Purple Statement
Location: Smoothie King Center — New Orleans, Louisiana
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