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Lakers vs. Pelicans Odds, Prediction, Preview: Back LeBron James, L.A. to Dominate Sunday (May 16)

Lakers vs. Pelicans Odds, Prediction, Preview: Back LeBron James, L.A. to Dominate Sunday (May 16) article feature image

Justin Casterline/Getty Images. Pictured: Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James.

  • The Los Angeles Lakers and New Orleans Pelicans will close out the regular season in the Bayou Sunday night.
  • The Lakers need to win to keep their hopes of jumping into the sixth spot and out of the NBA Play-In Tournament alive.
  • Roberto Arguello explains why he likes the Lakers to show up ready for a virtual must-win game.

Lakers vs. Pelicans Odds

Lakers Odds -7.5
Pelicans Odds +7.5
Moneyline -295 / +240
Over/Under 221.5
Time 9 p.m. ET
Odds as of Sunday via FanDuel.

The New Orleans Pelicans host the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday on the final day of the regular season. The Lakers earned a 112-95 win in the first matchup back on Jan. 15, but the Pelicans exacted revenge with a 128-111 victory next time out in late March, though L.A. was missing LeBron James and Anthony Davis in that defeat.

The Lakers have won four consecutive games after beating the Indiana Pacers, 122-115, as they fight to avoid the play-in tournament. The Lakers need a win here and a Portland Trail Blazers loss to finish sixth in the Western Conference.

Conversely, the Pelicans won’t have anything to play for since they have been eliminated from playoff contention. They will be without several top players.

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James’ Return Gives Los Angeles Major Boost

The Lakers, who got James, Davis and Dennis Schroder back from injury Saturday, should win this contest as long as they remain healthy for the second leg of this back-to-back set.

After playing earlier this week without any true point guards, the Lakers got a big boost with James and Schroder returning. The offense should take advantage of the shorthanded Pelicans, who have played poor defense.

LeBron leads the Lakers to a huge win as they hold off the Pacers in Indiana 💪

24 points
8 assists
7 rebounds

11-22 FGM

— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) May 15, 2021

New Orleans’ defense will face an uphill battle, as it has allowed opponents to shoot the fourth-highest shooting percentage at the rim at (65.7%). The Pelicans have  also allowed the fifth-highest 3-point shooting percentage (38.6%) in the league. Davis, Andre Drummond and Marc Gasol will need to take advantage inside with Zion Williamson and Steven Adams absent.

L.A.will also need its shooters to step up alongside James and Davis to cover as a double-digit favorite. Among the Lakers’ guards and wings who have played more than 20 games, only Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is scoring at an efficient rate this season, as his 117.6 points per 100 shots rank in the 69th percentile among wings.

Caldwell-Pope has been playing his best basketball of late as he has made 43% of his 3-pointers since the beginning of April, according to Cleaning The Glass. He will play a key secondary scoring role for the Lakers in the playoffs. Ben McLemore has also impressed in his 20 games with the Lakers, making 38% of his 3-point shots.

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Youngsters Need To Shine in New Orleans’ Upset Bid

If the Pelicans cover or pull off the upset, it will happen because their young players step up with their top three scorers out. Wes Iwundu (shoulder) and James Johnson (knee) are questionable, while Williamson (finger), Brandon Ingram (ankle), Lonzo Ball (thumb), Josh Hart (thumb) and Adams (toe) are out.

Alexander-Walker was playing some of his best basketball before an injury sidelined him for a month. If he can continue to shoot the ball efficiently from beyond the arc, it will be a big boost. He impressed Friday in his fourth game back, scoring 30 points while knocking down four of his eight 3-pointers.

Among Pelicans taking at least two 3-pointers per game, Alexander-Walker (35.1% on 3s) will be the only shooter available who is making more than 35% on his attempts beyond the arc.

Jaxson Hayes will also see increased playing time with Adams out. After scoring fewer than 18 points in every previous game this season, Hayes has scored 18 or more in three of the past five games. His ability to put pressure on the rim offensively with his freakish athleticism at his size will be important for the Pelicans to generate quality looks without Williamson and Ingram.

Hayes also set a career-high with six blocks last Sunday, but will need to be disciplined and avoid leaving the weak-side glass open too much with Drummond inside.

Other scorers like Eric Bledsoe and Kira Lewis Jr. will also need to step up their scoring efficiency, while also setting up athletic bigs like Hayes and Willy Hernangomez with chances to score at the rim. Bledsoe hasn’t been an efficient scorer, but he will need to knock down shots on increased usage.

Underrated rookie playmaker Naji Marshall, who will also play a bigger role than normal, is coming off of his best performance of the season as he tallied career highs in scoring (20 points) and rebounding (13 rebounds) against the Golden State Warriors in Friday’s game.

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Lakers-Pelicans Pick

While the Pelicans have a handful of nice young players who are showing they have bright futures ahead like Alexander-Walker, Hayes and Marshall, this is a poor time for them to face a Lakers team that has its best players back from injury and needs of a big win in its attempt to avoid the play-in tournament.

The Lakers’ elite defense, led by Davis, will hold the Pelicans in check offensively as the hosts won’t have the shooting to stay competitive without Ingram and Ball. New Orleans’ offense, which normally takes advantage of points in the paint and offensive rebounds via Williamson and Adams, will be challenged against the’ frontcourt rotation of Davis, Drummond and Gasol.

I’m expecting the Lakers to win comfortably against the overmatched Pelicans. I like the value on the Lakers at -10.5 at FanDuel enough for a small play (with value down to -11), although I will keep an eye out for a solid first-half line of the Lakers at -6 or better across the odds landscape.

I also like the value on the Lakers at -165 to win both the first quarter and the game outright as a secondary pick.

Pick: Lakers -10.5 (play to -11) | Lakers To Win First Quarter & Game (-165)

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