It’s unusual for the Los Angeles Lakers to fly under the radar considering they’re the crown jewel franchise of the NBA. Still, it’s tough to say that the Lakers haven’t been drawing many headlines of late. Eyebrows were raised when they acquired Isaiah Thomas from the Cavs on trade deadline day, but few are paying attention to what the Lakers are doing on the court.
L.A. has gone 7-3 over their last 10 games to pull to 23-32 on the season. A playoff berth this season is still highly unlikely, but it’s been impressive to see Luke Walton’s squad racking up some wins. They’re already just 3 victories shy of tying last year’s season-long win total, so they’re certainly improved.
Perhaps most impressive about the team’s run of late is that they’ve been doing it without the injured Lonzo Ball. Los Angeles started the season 0-8 in games without Ball, but they’ve gone 8-5 over the last 12 games with him sidelined. Ball won’t play tonight in New Orleans, but he is expected to return after the All-Star break.
Thomas was much maligned for his struggles in Cleveland, but he came to L.A. with a good attitude. He certainly doesn’t have a chance to win a ring like he did with the Cavaliers, but if he plays well the rest of the season, he could be in for a payday this summer. In his first game in purple and gold over the weekend against the Mavericks, IT2 impressively scored 22 points along with 6 assists in 31 minutes off the bench. He’s likely to stay in a reserve role for the rest of the season, which means he should play as the No. 1 offensive option most of the time. That suits his game well.
With Larry Nance Jr. now in Cleveland, guys like Julius Randle and Kyle Kuzma will step into larger roles for the Lakers. Those 2 were menaces against the Mavs over the weekend, combining for 38 points, 23 rebounds and 10 assists.
As for the Pelicans, they managed to pick up a much-needed win last time out against the Pistons. New Orleans lost 5 of their first 6 games after DeMarcus Cousins was lost for the season, but they’ve now reeled off 2 straight wins over Brooklyn and Detroit.
Despite having lost Boogie, the Pels still have realistic playoff aspirations. They enter Wednesday’s action at 30-26, which is good for the eighth and final playoff spot in the conference. The Clippers are just a half-game back, so New Orleans needs to keep piling up the Ws.
The Pelicans have been playing at a pace of over 104 possessions per game since Cousins went down, which is the fastest mark in the league by a good margin. On the season, the Lakers have played at a pace of 102.9, which also tops the league. In short, this game should be a wild, back-and-forth shootout.
Anthony Davis is going to be the focal point of the Pels’ offense moving forward. Since Cousins was lost, Davis has taken over 30 shots in a game 3 times, which is nuts. If you throw out recent blowout losses to the Jazz and Sixers, Davis is averaging 40.7 points and 11.5 rebounds per game in February. Those are some gaudy numbers, and the Lakers don’t have anyone on the roster capable of slowing him down. Davis should be in store for a monster game tonight.
This game could easily surpass the total of 230 points. That’s the highest number on the board tonight, but with good reason. These teams are both miserable defensively, and it’s going to be up-and-down madness. Hitting the over on 230 looks like a smart play.
There is also excellent value on the Lakers against the spread and on the moneyline here. The Pelicans haven’t been very impressive without Cousins, and they lack some firepower outside of Davis and Jrue Holiday. The Lakers should absolutely be able to keep this game close, and there’s no reason to believe they can’t pick up another win in this spot. The Lakers can cover the 5-point spread, and they’re a very solid profit potential play at +175 to win outright on the moneyline.