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Lakers (21-39) vs. Pelicans (23-37) Game Preview – 3/4/14

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The Lakers have won three straight games only one time this year – in November – and tonight they have the opportunity to do it again at home against a struggling New Orleans Pelicans squad.

This will be the third and final meeting between the teams this season. The season series is currently tied at one game a piece – each team has won at home.

Los Angeles may have a slightly worse record, but the Pelicans are the ones who have been playing worse. In their last 11 games, New Orleans is a pitiful 1-10. The biggest reason for their poor play has been their inability to create offense. During that span, the Pelicans are averaging 93 points on 44.8 percent shooting.

This bodes well for a Lakers squad that hasn’t played good defense all year. In the last eight games, the Lakers are allowing an average of 111.9 points on 46.5 percent shooting.

Because the Pelicans aren’t a high-powered offense, the Lakers could possibly win this game without scoring 100 points or more – something they have only done three times this year. The Lakers’ offense has needed to be stellar in nearly all of their wins – and that’s why they only have 21 of them. In the Lakers’ last nine victories (dating back to December), the team has averaged 110.9 points on 51.1 percent shooting.

X-Factors

After not getting a lot of minutes for a couple of games, Wesley Johnson has played at least 36 minutes in the last three games and has gotten in a nice groove – and hit a game-winner. In the last four games, Johnson has turned it up offensively and is averaging 14.8 points (56 percent shooting, 41.8 percent from three) and 7.3 rebounds per game. Johnson needs to continue his recent play since he has been terrible in the two games against the Pelicans: averaging four points (33 percent shooting) and five rebounds per game.

After six games of having no more than 25 minutes, it’s clear that Kendall Marshall’s role just isn’t going to be what it was earlier this year. Marshall is starting to adapt better to it, though, and is coming off of back-to-back double-digit assisting games for the first time in two weeks. Marshall is too good of a facilitator to not be effective – he will find ways. Marshall wasn’t a member of the team in the first two meetings against the Pelicans, so he will be something new for them.

Kent Bazemore isn’t setting a new career-high every game like he was at first with the Lakers, but he is still being very productive. In his six games as a Laker, Bazemore is averaging 15.8 points (47.3 percent shooting) and 3.7 rebounds per game. As long as Bazemore continues this production and efficiency, he should stay in the starting lineup.

Eric Gordon had a very good month of February: averaged 15.8 points on 46 percent shooting. However, he is inconsistent, and that has showed in his last two games where he has averaged only six points on 27 percent shooting. Gordon has scored well against the Lakers this year: average of 16.5 points on 42 percent shooting in two games against them.

Key Players

Jodie Meeks has been dominating 2014, and it’s finally time he becomes a key player. As good as Meeks has been, he’s been on fire in his last three games: averaging 20.7 points on 73.3 percent shooting (61 percent on three-pointers). Meeks will be in for quite the payday this offseason if he finishes the season like this. In two games against the Pelicans, Meeks is averaging 13 points on 53 percent shooting.

Pau Gasol has not done his best against the Pelicans. In the two games against them this year, Gasol is averaging 11.5 points (41 percent shooting) and 9.5 rebounds per game. Although a double-double looks nice on paper, Gasol simply hasn’t been able to do much when Anthony Davis is around him. Heck, in the first game Davis had five blocks on Gasol alone. Maybe Gasol can turn things around with the groove he has been in for some time now. Gasol is averaging 22 points (54.5 percent shooting), seven rebounds and 5.5 assists per game in his last two games.

Tyreke Evans has been very inconsistent all year, but he has been playing better as of late. In the last two games, Evans is averaging 24.5 points (52 percent shooting), 9.5 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game. The Pelicans especially need him to pick up his play since their star point guard Jrue Holiday is out for the season. Evans has struggled against the Lakers this year: averaging nine points (28 percent shooting), 5.5 rebounds and four assists in two games.

Ah – finally – The Unibrow. Anthony Davis may very well be having the most breakout year of any player this season. Davis has established himself a force on both ends of the floor who can dominate a game and is averaging 20.1 points (52 percent shooting), 9.9 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game. I’m sure I speak for all Lakers fans when I say we don’t forget the career game he put on against us earlier this year: 32 points (67 percent shooting), 12 rebounds and six blocks. If the Pelicans win this game, it’s most likely going to be because Davis had a monster game.

Expected Starting Lineups

Lakers:
Kendall Marshall
Jodie Meeks
Kent Bazemore
Wesley Johnson
Pau Gasol

Key reserves: Jordan Farmar, Jordan Hill and MarShon Brooks

Pelicans:
Brian Roberts
Eric Gordon
Tyreke Evans
Anthony Davis
Alexis Ajinca

Key reserves: Anthony Morrow and Austin Rivers

The game starts at 7:30 PM PST and will be broadcast live on TWC SportsNet.

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Written by Andrew Ross

Andrew Ross is an 19-year-old student at Delaware State University (DSU), where he is pursuing a mass communications degree, concentration convergence journalism. At DSU, Ross is a sports writer for the paper, and also has his own sports radio show on campus. Ross aspires to one day be a successful sports writer, and to possibly even have his own radio show. Make sure to follow him on Twitter @AJRoss94

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