Pelicans vs. Lakers Preview: Can L.A. Prevail in Must-Win Game?

Action Network contributor Tyler Schmidt previews how to bet Friday's matchup between the New Orleans Pelicans and Los Angeles Lakers.

Pelicans vs. Lakers Odds

Pelicans Odds +1.5
Lakers Odds -1.5
Over/Under 231.5
Time 10:30 p.m. ET
Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

Will LeBron James and Anthony Davis save the season for the Los Angeles Lakers? Both are expected to return Friday from injury in the midst of the Lakers’ four-game losing streak.

There are a ton of playoff implication games coming down the stretch, but this Lakers and New Orleans Pelicans game is critical for the play-in tournament.

The new-look Pelicans with CJ McCollum have been thriving since the All-Star break and put themselves in a great position to make the playoffs this season.

Let’s dive in and find the best bet for this showdown.

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Pelicans Turnaround Continues

The Pelicans have won six of their past nine games and lead both the Lakers and San Antonio Spurs by two games for the ninth spot in the Western conference.

Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum are both healthy and playing really well lately. They have played 12 games combined and the Pelicans have a record of 7-5 during that time.

Ingram is averaging nearly 23 points per game for the third consecutive season. He has developed into a great facilitator as well averaging a career-high 5.5 assists per game. He has scored 20 or more points in six of the eight games he has played against the Lakers since leaving them. Revenge is in the air.

After a difficult season with the Portland Trail Blazers, that included a scary absence due to a collapsed lung, McCollum has thrived with his new team. He is averaging a career-high 25.9 points per game while shooting 50.4% from the field. Similar to Ingram, he has increased his facilitating averaging 6.4 assists per game.

Since the arrival of McCollum, the Pelicans are 11-11 and they have the eighth-best Offensive Rating averaging 116.4 points per game. They rank fifth in net rating since the All-Star break.

They are a completely different team with McCollum in the lineup, but this may be their toughest test as Lakers have their backs firmly against the wall and James and Davis appear to be ready for action.

Will the Lakers Be Whole Again?

Well … it’s time for the Lakers to prove their worth. They have six games left and are on the outside looking in to the play-in tournament as they have lost four-straight games. Their remaining schedule is tough, making this a must-win game.

The big news to monitor is that James and Davis are targeting this game for their respective returns. Davis has been out since the All-Star break and he seems like a true game-time decision, while James has sat out two games due to an ankle sprain.

James, Davis, and Russell Westbrook have played 20 games together. In those games they are 11-9, but it is a winning record none the less. Westbrook missed one game all season, but it has been a disappointing season for him overall — his 18.2 points per game, is his lowest mark since the 2009-10 season.

Unlike Westbrook, this has been one of James’ best scoring seasons. He is leading the league in points with 30.1 per game. He needs two more games played to qualify for the scoring record. James could become the oldest player to win a scoring title at the age of 37 and the Lakers need every bucket he can provide to will them to the playoffs.

Playing at the Staples Center has been kind to the Lakers. They have a 20-18 record at home compared to 11-27 on the road. They are very slim favorites against the Pelicans, but if James and Davis are truly ready for battle, it is hard to ignore that line with how well the Lakers are playing at home this season.

Pelicans-Lakers Pick

It should be no surprise that this total is one of the highest on the slate at 234 points as the Lakers rank 28th in defensive rating since the All-Star Break and fifth this season in pace. Their defense improves with James and Davis back in the lineup, but McCollum and Ingram can score with the best of the league.

The Pelicans won their last meeting with the Lakers, despite being down by 20 at halftime. The Pelicans ended up beating the Lakers by eight points as they outscored the Lakers 67-39 in the second half! I have a hard time seeing that happening at the Staples Center given the Lakers home record this season.

Make sure that James and Davis are playing tonight. Even if Davis is unable to go I’m going with the Lakers where we are getting value -1.5 and I would bet this up to Lakers -3, especially if Davis plays. He is such a mismatch even if he is only playing in limited minutes. Let’s ride with the Lake Show.

Pick: Lakers -1.5