It is no secret that the Los Angeles Lakers have struggled since the All-Star break and the trade of Lou Williams, as they have dropped all four of their games since the break, and six straight overall.
Friday night may have been the worst of all the losses, as they were defeated 115-95 to the Boston Celtics on their home floor.
The losses have helped the Lakers drop in the standings though, as they have fallen behind the Phoenix Suns for the second worst record in the league, which should help them keep their top-three protected first round pick in the upcoming draft.
The rest of the season the organization is focused on developing the young core, so as has been the case in recent weeks the young players should get a bulk of the minutes Sunday night when the Lakers host DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans, who are 0-4 with Cousins in the lineup.
While they acquired a superstar in Cousins from the Sacramento Kings, the Pelicans backcourt took a big hit in doing so as they gave up rookie Buddy Hield and veteran Tyreke Evans.
The team still has a solid point guard in Jrue Holiday, who is in the midst of another solid season. The 26-year-old Los Angeles native is averaging 16.2 points, 7.3 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game while shooting 45.9 percent from the field and 37.3 percent from three.
Since Cousins was acquired Holiday’s production has dipped a bit, as he’s averaging 15.6 points and 5.6 assists while shooting just 39.8 percent since the All-Star break.
Other guards that have started alongside Holiday in recent weeks are Soloman Hill and E’Twaun Moore. Neither is a big threat offensively, as the bulk of the Pelicans scoring other than Holiday comes from their front court.
Lakers second-year point guard D’Angelo Russell has stepped up his play in recent weeks, as he has been looking to score more. IN his last five games Russell is averaging 21.6 points and 5.2 assists while shooting 46.2 percent from the field and 38.9 percent from three, which are well above his season averages.
Acquiring Cousins gives the Pelicans one of the best big men duo in NBA history on paper. Him and Davis, both Kentucky products, have been named All-Stars in each of the past four seasons (five for Cousins).
While it will take some time for them to gel together, they both have the ability to score in a variety of ways which makes it awfully tough for defenders.
Since coming to New Orleans Cousins has sacrificed some shots as he is averaging five less shots per game than he did in Sacramento, but he is scoring more efficiently as his field goal percentage raised from 45.1 percent to 48.3 percent.
Along with averaging 22.3 points in his four games with the Pelicans, Cousins is also rebounding at a very high rate at 15.5 per game.
Having Cousins take over the center position has helped Davis on both ends of the floor. In five games since the break Davis has scored 33.6 points per game to go along with 10.6 rebounds.
Both Cousins and Davis have height on the Lakers starting frontcourt of Julius Randle and Tarik Black, so the Lakers will have their hands full defensively against the twin towers.
Three Keys To Victory:
Help On Davis And Cousins:
Davis and Cousins are by far the biggest scoring threats on New Orleans, so the Lakers guards may need to double them, leaving New Orleans’ poor shooters open, hoping that they miss some shots.
Crash The Glass:
New Orleans is now one of the better rebounding teams in the league with Davis and Cousins both averaging double figures in the rebounding department. Those guys are hard enough to guard as it is, so limiting New Orleans’ second chance opportunities will be a big key Sunday night.
Show Some Heart:
No one is expecting the Lakers to win a lot of games to finish out this season, in fact, it is better if they lose so they can keep that draft pick. But the young players still need to go out and prove that they have some heart and are willing to give 100 percent of their effort every night.
Los Angeles Lakers (19-43) Vs. New Orleans Pelicans (24-38)
6:30 P.M. PST, March 5, 2017
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN)/1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Pelicans Lineup:
PG: Jrue Holiday
SG: Soloman Hill
SF: Hollis Thompson
PF: Anthony Davis
C: DeMarcus Cousins
Key Reserves: Dante Cunningham, E’Twaun Moore, Tim Frazier, Omer Asik, Donatas Motiejunas
Projected Lakers Lineup:
PG: D’Angelo Russell
SG: Nick Young
SF: Brandon Ingram
PF: Julius Randle
C: Tarik Black
Key Reserves: Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., Ivica Zubac, Luol Deng