Anthony Davis posts up vs. Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma

Top 10 Pelicans Home Games of 2018-19: No. 2 vs. Lakers

by Jim Eichenhofer
@Jim_Eichenhofer

LOS ANGELES LAKERS AT NEW ORLEANS PELICANS
Saturday, Feb. 23 (6 p.m.)

Why it’s on the list
After two near-misses this decade, Houston guard James Harden captured the NBA’s MVP award in 2017-18. Although “The Beard” still must be considered a strong contender to repeat, based on prognostications this summer, the biggest favorites to reign as the sport’s premier player in ’18-19 are the individual headliners for the Lakers and Pelicans.

In ESPN.com’s annual “Summer Forecast” series, Lakers free-agent signee LeBron James received the most points in projected MVP voting. Meanwhile, Pelicans five-time All-Star Anthony Davis was second on the list. James and Davis were followed in the top five by Golden State’s Kevin Durant, Harden and Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo.

New Orleans now will have to deal with the all-around dominance of LeBron on a much more frequent basis, with the Ohio native suiting up for a Western Conference squad for the first time, after 15 years in the East. James’ Cleveland and Miami teams actually struggled mightily in many of their visits to the Crescent City, going a combined 5-10 in the Smoothie King Center. James has registered a pair of 40-point games in New Orleans during his pro career, along with a triple-double, but he has not won a game in the Big Easy since March 29, 2013. During his second stint with his home-state NBA franchise, the Cavaliers were 0-4 in trips to Louisiana.

Prior to this late-February matchup, the clubs will have already played once at Staples Center (Dec. 21), giving Pelicans big Julius Randle his first opportunity to face his former NBA team.

Where it falls on the New Orleans schedule
The Pelicans play five of their first seven games on the road coming out of the All-Star break, with a two-game homestand vs. the Lakers and 76ers sandwiched between a one-game trip to Indiana and a four-game trek to Los Angeles (to play the Lakers again on Feb. 27), Phoenix, Denver and Utah. The good news in the second half of the schedule for New Orleans is the stretch run is extremely favorable travel-wise, including 10 home games between March 6 and April 3, but just three road tilts in that timeframe.

What’s new in Los Angeles
No NBA team had a more interesting offseason than the Lakers, and not just because they landed the biggest fish in free agency by signing James to a four-year contract. Los Angeles signed point guard Rajon Rondo on Day 2 of the free-agent period, then added mercurial role players JaVale McGee, Lance Stephenson and Michael Beasley. The Lakers did not have their lottery pick due to a previous trade, but selected Mo Wagner with the No. 27 pick of the first round. Some of the recognizable names who left Los Angeles this summer included Randle, Brook Lopez (Milwaukee) and Isaiah Thomas (Denver).

Other 2018-19 games between these two teams
Friday, Dec. 21, New Orleans at L.A. Lakers (ESPN)
Wednesday, Feb. 27, New Orleans at L.A. Lakers (ESPN)
Sunday, March 31, L.A. Lakers at New Orleans



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