With a little over 10 games remaining in the regular season, the battle in the Western Conference standings has reached a fever pitch.
The Los Angeles Lakers and the New Orleans Pelicans are two of the teams striving to fight their way to a Top-6 seed and a guaranteed playoff spot, and their game against each other on Tuesday, March 14 could ultimately prove decisive.
While the Lakers have shown surprising tenacity in LeBron James’ absence, the Pelicans have been trending in just the opposite direction. Suddenly facing the very real possibility that Zion Williamson may not play again this season, the team had sputtered to a 3-7 record over their last 10 games.
Our NBA picks and predictions for Lakers vs. Pelicans are banking on another Anthony Davis revenge game against his former squad.
Lakers vs Pelicans best odds
Lakers vs Pelicans picks and predictions
This Los Angeles Lakers season feels like it's been several seasons in one, in part due to the wholesale remodeling of the team at the trade deadline, but also due to injuries that have sidelined LeBron James and Anthony Davis at different times. It’s hard to get a feel for a team that has shown so many different faces and found new and exciting ways to win and lose in equal measure.
There is perhaps no player better suited than Davis to serve as the torchbearer for this season’s Lakers then, as he’s about as mercurial a star as there is in the NBA.
On any given night he might appear to be a Top-5 player, but another might see him as a glorified role player who shies from contact and drifts into the background. His last two games were of the latter variety, where he scored just 25 collective points in games against the Knicks and Raptors.
Prior to that though, Davis had been on a scoring tear, averaging 33 points per game over his last five. What’s the source of these highs and lows akin to those of a Six Flags rollercoaster? With AD, the question is often health, and secondly motivation. Neither should be in question tonight against the Pelicans.
If the fight for playoff seeding wasn’t enough, AD never fails to get up to play his old team in New Orleans. Davis has averaged 27 points against the Pels in 11 games as a Laker, about three points per game higher than his career average.
Davis was also, shall we say, forthright about the poor quality of his play following the loss to the Knicks. Davis would only offer such candor on the expectation that he would turn around with something special the following game, which I fully expect him to do.
AD’s motivation is only a piece of the puzzle, however, as he should have a matchup advantage in most situations against the Pelicans. The Pels do a decent job denying the rim, but when opponents are actually able to get there (and Davis will definitely get there) they’re scoring at the highest rate in the Association, per Cleaning the Glass.
Larry Nance Jr. is New Orleans’ best switch defender and rim protector, but he’s overtaxed in a matchup against Anthony Davis. Jonas Valanciunas has had a serious down year as a defensive player, and that’s led to a growing lack of trust shown in him by coach Willie Green.
JV’s minutes have fluctuated based on matchups, but nobody else on New Orleans has the requisite strength to credibly guard AD one-on-one. Still, size is only half the battle when it comes to guarding AD, and what Valanciunas offers in girth he concedes in dexterity, with Davis more than happy to dribble into an open midrange jumper when offered.
But a straight points prop isn’t the play here, as AD has seen a noticeable growth as a playmaker recently. Whether this is actual skill development or simply the natural result of surrounding him with quality shooters is immaterial, the result is that AD is up to 3.6 assists over his last five games.
By taking the points + assists prop, we defend against the possibility that New Orleans gives up on defending AD conventionally. That way he’ll still have a chance to hit this prop even if he’s forced to get off the ball. That’s been the case a few times recently, including the last time Davis played the Pels when he added five assists on February 15.
My best bet: Anthony Davis Over 29.5 points + assists (-115)
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Lakers vs Pelicans spread analysis
It looked for a moment there that LeBron’s untimely foot injury would sink a Lakers team that finally had a roster worthy of a playoff run. Instead, the team has rallied around Davis and D’Angelo Russell, as well as the inspiring workman-like play of Jarred Vanderbilt.
Instead of crumbling the Lakers are now 7-3 against the spread in their last 10 overall. The Pelicans are the polar opposite, going just 3-7 ATS in that same span.
While the shooting that Russell provides has been revelatory for L.A., Vanderbilt has proven his value as well. His defensive playmaking has allowed the Lakers to do what they do best and attack in transition. That transition attack will be tested on Tuesday, as the Pelicans are one of the better and more disciplined teams when defending in transition.
The Lakers have been undervalued by the spread all season long. They’re third in the NBA in terms of spread differential on the season, beating their lines by 2.1 points per game. That trend has only strengthened since the trade deadline. Over the last seven games, they’re beating the spread by an average of 4.0 points, per Cleaning the Glass.
Neither of these teams has shown the requisite consistency to really make me comfortable betting the spread, however. Even though the Pels have struggled lately, they looked crisp and together in their utter domination of the Trail Blazers on Sunday.
Lakers vs Pelicans Over/Under analysis
The Pelicans' No. 8-ranked defense has been the primary reason they’ve managed to avoid slipping into total irrelevance this season.
While they don’t have the ideal personnel to slow down Davis, what they do have is a few quality defensive wings and guards capable of pestering some of the NBA’s best perimeter scorers. Or at least they did when Jose Alvarado was healthy, and his loss could see Dennis Schroeder or Russell have an outsized scoring impact.
The Pelicans have been hit by injuries harder or as hard as any other team, but it still boggles the mind how a squad with CJ McCollum, Brandon Ingram, and Valanciunas is a Bottom-10 team on offense. Yes, Zion is supposed to be the straw that stirs the drink, but they still have a plethora of score-first players as well as complimentary scorers and shooters.
A lot of it is that the skill sets of the Pelicans, while impressive, are not complimentary — they overlap in what they like to do and the spaces they like to occupy. That makes them easier to defend.
With Vanderbilt in the fold, the Lakers can now put together some truly hellacious defensive units, so I’m expecting this game to be a bit of a slog at times. Both the Pelicans and Lakers have seen the Under cash in at least four of their last five games, and I’d lean toward the same result tonight at 232.5.
Lakers vs Pelicans betting trend to know
The Lakers are 7-3 ATS in their last 10 games overall. Find more NBA betting trends for Lakers vs. Pelicans.
Lakers vs Pelicans game info
|Location:||Smoothie King Center, New Orleans, LA|
|Date:||Tuesday, March 14, 2023|
|Tip-off:||8:00 p.m. ET|
|TV:||Spectrum SportsNet LA, Bally Sports New Orleans|