Two teams with very different rosters clash at Staples Center today in a matchup between the 0-2 New Orleans Pelicans and the 1-1 Los Angeles Lakers (9:30pm ET, Sunday).
Los Angeles has a young, deep roster that prides itself on a fast-paced offense. The Pelicans are built around two dominant traditional big men in Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins. Their supporting cast is quite weak.
Both teams have playoff aspirations in 2017-18, but how will they fare against each other tonight? Read below for some key storylines on the game, as well as predictions and picks from this preview for the contest’s betting lines.
Which Team Can Dictate the Pace?
It’s very early, but it’s easy to see what sort of pace these two teams like to play. The Pelicans have averaged the fewest possessions per game in the league, while the Lakers have the eighth-fastest pace.
Los Angeles has rookie point guard Lonzo Ball always looking to make the long pass in transition. When the game slows down, he and some of the other Laker youngsters get a little bit less comfortable.
New Orleans, meanwhile, has two massive big men (Davis and Cousins) who will protect the rim very well if they’ve made it back to the defensive end. On offense, they use their length and brawn to fare well as post-up options and pick-and-roll finishers.
The Pelicans need to limit turnovers and get back quickly in transition, while the Lakers need to get their hands in the passing lanes and try to beat New Orleans up the court on offense.
Obviously this factor impacts our betting predictions on the spread and our picks on the over/under.
Will Jrue Holiday Step Us As a Much-Needed Third Offensive Threat in the Starting Lineup?
Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins have been absolute studs through the first two games. They’ve combined for an average of 65 points, 27 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 3 steals and 4.5 blocks per game so far. However that production has resulted in two losses.
A big problem is that the rest of their starters are not pulling their weight. Point guard Jrue Holiday is the main guy who has performed below expectations, despite being widely considered the team’s third-best player. He has put up just 8.5 points, 3.5 assists and 2.5 turnovers per contest on 25.9 percent shooting thus far.
The Lakers are a team with a lot of capable scorers and keep everyone in rhythm by spreading the ball and the shots around. The Pelicans will need to do the same to make sure the offense doesn’t become too reliant on their star big men, and it starts with getting Holiday going with his scoring.
Can the Lakers Find a Way to Keep Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins Off the Glass?
We saw in the Lakers’ Thursday game against the Los Angeles Clippers that they might have some trouble against bigger and more athletic frontcourt duos when it comes to rebounding. Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan combined for 36 rebounds, including 11 on the offensive end, despite leaving the game early because the Clippers were way ahead.
Davis and Cousins is an even a tougher matchup for the Pelicans. Both guys were top 10 in rebounds per game last year. Will the Lakers be able to handle them under the basket?
Brook Lopez is a seven-footer with nice size, but he’s never been a great rebounder. Julius Randle is strong, but undersized. Larry Nance Jr. is athletic, but also a bit undersized. Andrew Bogut is big, but he doesn’t get up off the ground like Davis and Cousins do.
Los Angeles will need to gang rebound on both ends to prevent Davis and Cousins from gobbling up every miss. The difficulty for the Lakers will be continuing to do that while still have a potent transition attack, which requires players leaking out on the fast break.
Our Preview’s New Orleans Pelicans vs. LA Lakers Picks & Predictions
The Pelicans are a bit better than the Lakers. Their superstar power overcomes the Lakers’ strong depth, because New Orleans can have either Davis or Cousins as a matchup nightmare on the floor at all times.
But I expect Los Angeles to at least keep this one close, especially now that Lonzo Ball is getting over his rookie jitters. It should be another game of the Pelicans big men dominating but getting little help.
- The spread for this game is advertised at Pelicans –4pts with most of the U.S. sports betting websites. Los Angeles’ depth and home-court advantage will help it keep the game closer than that, if not lead to a Lakers win. Bet on the LA Lakers +4 @ best odds of -110 with Bovada or Bookmaker.
- The total points for the game is set at 222pts to 223pts, which seems a little bit high given that one of these teams (the Pelicans) likes to play slow. While it should be close, our pick is on the total being under 223pts @ -115 with Bovada. It is -110 for under 222.5pts with most other bookmakers.
Jared is a lifelong sports fan and writer whose specialist subject is NBA. A 2015 graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, Jared has been a sought-after freelance sports writer. In addition to his valuable USA Betting contributions, he has also written for other top media outlets.