Back in early December, the Los Angeles Lakers crushed the New Orleans Pelicans 133-89 in the semifinal of the In-Season Tournament. It was a come-to-Jesus kind of loss for New Orleans, after which it totally recalibrated how to play around Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram in the aftermath.
The Pelicans got their revenge later that month with an emphatic 20-point victory. Now the teams meet for a third time on Friday, February 9, and New Orleans is playing better than ever before.
The Pelicans are coming off an impressive win against the Lakers’ crosstown rivals — the Los Angeles Clippers — and a strong stretch of play overall. The Lakers played just last night, losing a valiant effort against the Denver Nuggets.
Pelicans vs Lakers odds
Pelicans vs Lakers predictions
The feedback was harsh. A lot of it fell at the feet of Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram. The criticisms ranged from Zion not being in good enough shape to the two not making their teammates better, only adding value as scorers, and a host of more unpleasant criticisms besides.
Whether it was due to the criticism or personal pride after that loss, the Pels slowly turned their season around. There are still ups and downs, but the Pelicans appear to be hitting their stride.
First, Zion and Ingram had to step back and allow their teammates to do more. Now that the team is thriving, they can step up again. Both are in the middle of their strongest offensive stretches of the season and with the defensive and shooting depth through the rest of the roster, that makes New Orleans a scary team indeed.
After starting the season relatively inefficiently, Zion’s scoring has more-or-less normalized. He’s also picking his spots better and is averaging a career-high 4.8 assists per game. He looked especially springy on Wednesday when he played the Los Angeles Clippers, isolating and driving against the Clippers’ big men and scoring inside on drive after drive.
He also outworked and outmuscled the likes of Kawhi Leonard on the offensive glass on multiple occasions. It was his first 20-point, 10-assist game of his career and a stark reminder of how good Zion can be when he is physically and mentally right.
One of the reasons these odds are closer than they have any right to be is surely that Zion is officially listed as questionable. But he has been questionable for a few games now with the same bone bruise in his foot.
It appears more than anything to be a pain management issue, and I suspect he won’t pass up the opportunity to take it to the Lakers after enduring so much mockery after the Lakers spanked them in the In-Season Tournament.
But even if they’re down Zion, this Pels team has enough to win.
The Pels are just 5-3 in their last eight games, but their losses are all to some of the most talented teams in the Association including the Boston Celtics and Oklahoma City Thunder. They also have dominant wins in that span and handled the Clippers in business-like fashion on Wednesday.
The Lakers are coming off a physically and emotionally draining loss to the Denver Nuggets last night. Playing the Nuggets and all their size, and trying to handle Jokic in the middle, is likely to have left the Lakers battered and bruised. While there won’t be injury report information available for L.A. until close to tip off, Anthony Davis missed the second night of a back-to-back after a similarly draining game against the Houston Rockets recently.
By Cleaning the Glass’ point differential, the Lakers are about a 40-win team this season. At +4.1 the Pels are a little better than a 50-win squad. With both teams dealing with relatively similar levels of health and the Lakers on a back-to-back, the value is clearly with New Orleans even with public money slightly bumping this line in their favor.
My best bet: Pelicans -2.5 (-107 at Pinnacle)
Pelicans vs Lakers same-game parlay
Ingram is a gifted scorer. At 6-foot-9 he’s a great ball-handler with fluid mechanics that make him difficult to block. He’s doing a better job these days of leveraging his pull-up threat to get easier (and more efficient) looks right at the basket.
While LeBron James and AD have been mostly healthy, L.A. has taken on key injuries to some of their role players. Cam Reddish and Jarred Vanderbilt are both out for the foreseeable future, and Max Christie rolled his ankle last night against the Nuggets.
That trio comprises L.A.’s best defensive options on the wing to guard Ingram. Taurean Prince, a much weaker defender, will likely get the job in their place and Ingram should have a meaningful advantage against him.
Ingram has also been pigeonholed as a pure scorer type, a guy who gets buckets but not much else. But there’s been a clear emphasis lately, just as there has been for Zion, for him to develop and expand on his floor game.
That’s seen a bump in a few of his statistical categories, including notably his block rate. Ingram has averaged 1.1 blocks in his last seven outings and only had a single game without one in that same span. Given the Lakers’ preferred style of trying to score in the paint, Ingram should have a strong opportunity to keep that trend going.
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Pelicans vs Lakers spread and Over/Under analysis
Oddsmakers set very different markets for Friday, with both the Lakers and Pels opening as slight 1-point or 1.5-point favorites depending on the sportsbook. That number has since moved decisively in favor of New Orleans, with most sportsbooks offering this spread at -2.5 in favor of the Pels at time of writing.
The Pels have consistently performed on the road this season, going 14-10-1 against the spread away from Smoothie King Center.
That the Lakers played just last night is huge for both teams. LeBron and Davis have a lot of miles on the odometer, and back-to-backs can be punishing to those veteran players. That’s in part why Los Angeles is 4-10 ATS with a rest disadvantage.
The Pels, in turn, pounce on opponents in these situations. They’re 8-5 ATS with a rest advantage. One way that could manifest is on the boards. The Pelicans won the second chance points battle on December 31, 25-7. A potentially fatigued Lakers team and a Pels team brimming with confidence could see a similarly decisive margin on Friday.
There has been some movement on the total, which opened at 237.5 and has fallen as low as 233.5 at some sportsbooks.
The Lakers are a team that is theoretically built to defend, but in practice, they are middle of the road at best. They rank 14th in defensive rating per Cleaning the Glass, and with the loss of Jarred Vanderbilt, could easily see that slide into the Bottom-10. AD is the only player in their current starting five who is a plus defender, and one of the few playing regular minutes for the team at this juncture.
Yet the Under is 15-10 in Lakers home games this season. That’s arguably more a function of their poor offense than anything else. The AD and LeBron pairing has never reached the offensive highs that some thought they might when they originally traded for him from New Orleans.
The Lakers’ lack of volume 3-point shooting also reduces the impact of Lebron’s drive and kick game. They’re just 18th on offense this season and that’s accounting for D’Angelo Russell being on an absolute heater for about a month now.
Russell was out last night and his status for Friday is TBD. If he’s out again tonight they could find it difficult to scrounge for buckets against this long and youthful Pels defense.
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Pelicans vs Lakers betting trend to know
The Lakers are 4-10 ATS with a rest disadvantage this season. Find more NBA betting trends for Pelicans vs. Lakers.
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Pelicans vs Lakers game info
|Crypto.com Arena, Los Angeles, CA
|Friday, February 9, 2024
|10:30 p.m. ET
Pelicans vs Lakers latest injuries
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