Tuesday, May 21 2024
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USATSI

The No. 7 vs. No. 8 Western Conference play-in game features two teams that didn’t expect to be here. The Los Angeles Lakers looked like a near-lock for the No. 10 seed when they lost to the Golden State Warriors last Tuesday. In fact, since they fell to No. 9 on Dec. 30, they spent a grand total of three more days in the regular season within the top eight in the standings.

The New Orleans Pelicans existed on the other end of the spectrum. On Feb. 10, they moved up to No. 6 and had seemingly escaped the play-in entirely. They remained in the top six until April 5 and even could have clinched a playoff spot with a win over these Lakers on Sunday.

Instead, they lost and fell to No. 7. Now, the Lakers and Pelicans will face off for the second time in three days with a playoff berth on the line. Here’s what you need to know ahead of the first Western Conference Play-In game.

Lakers at Pelicans

  • Date: Tuesday, April 16 | Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
  • Location: Smoothie King Center — New Orleans
  • TV channel: TNT | Live stream: TNT app
  • Odds: Lakers -1.5; O/U 226.5

Storylines

Lakers: Sunday provided a lesson the Lakers probably should have learned by now given their durability concerns. Anthony Davis, after playing a career-high 76 games for the Lakers, left Sunday’s win over the Pelicans due to back spasms in the closing minutes of a guaranteed win. The Lakers appear optimistic about Davis’ status for Tuesday, but just having him on the court won’t be enough. The Lakers need a healthy Davis to deal with the Pelicans. The Lakers are 6.8 points worse per 100 possessions with Davis on the bench, but since Feb. 1, that figure jumps to 11. He’ll be facing a raucous crowd if he can suit up against his former team, but anything less than his best won’t be good enough.

Pelicans: The Lakers have largely turned the Pelicans into their punching bag in high-profile games. New Orleans had a chance to clinch a playoff spot at home on Sunday. Instead, the Lakers blew them off of the floor. The Pelicans had a chance to use the In-Season Tournament as a launching pad toward mainstream acclaim. The Lakers smashed them by 44 points in the semifinals. Something about the big stage hasn’t agreed with the Pelicans when the Lakers have been involved lately. Can they change that on Tuesday?

Prediction

Sunday’s win aside, the Lakers are the only Western Conference postseason team to finish below .500 on the road this season. If Davis was going to be at 100% for certain, that might be easier to ignore. But the Pelicans should have major advantages when it comes to health, home court, and after Sunday’s embarrassment, motivation. I’m expecting a Pelicans bounce back on Tuesday. The Pick: Pelicans +1.5

Source: CBSSports.com

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