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Pelicans vs. Lakers Odds & Picks: How to Back LeBron & Co. on Friday Night

Pelicans vs. Lakers Odds & Picks: How to Back LeBron & Co. on Friday Night article feature image

Cato Cataldo/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: LeBron James.

  • The New Orleans Pelicans meet the Los Angeles Lakers in a Friday night national TV matchup of two teams headed in opposite directions.
  • Can Anthony Davis' former team keep up with the reigning NBA champions, who are riding a four-game win streak?
  • Matt Moore previews this matchup and shares his betting pick below.

Pelicans vs. Lakers Odds

Pelicans Odds +9 [BET NOW]
Lakers Odds -9 [BET NOW]
Moneyline +320 / -420 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 220 [BET NOW]
Time 10 p.m. ET
Odds as of Friday at 2 p.m. ET and via DraftKings. Get up to a $1,000 sign-up bonus at DraftKings today or see more offers and reviews for the best online sportsbooks.

The New Orleans Pelicans meet the Los Angeles Lakers in a Friday night national TV matchup of two teams headed in opposite directions.

The Lakers are proving to be the best team in the NBA, currently on a four-game winning streak that includes three consecutive blowouts. The Pelicans, meanwhile, have dropped their past four games, including two losses against teams that they were 7-point favorites over.

Can the Pelicans summon the strength to pull off a cover against the reigning champions? Let’s look at the matchup and break it down.

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New Orleans Pelicans

A lot of missing personnel for the Pelicans in this one.

Eric Bledsoe is questionable with eye irritation, as head coach Stan Van Gundy said that recently he couldn’t open either eye. There are treatments, but that’s a painful (and potentially contagious depending on the cause) condition. Bledsoe is listed as 50% to play in our Labs Insiders tool; that seems optimistic, but wait for confirmation before betting. If he plays, his defense and athleticism are central to the Pelicans’ plan against L.A.

Lonzo Ball will once again miss the game with knee soreness. Nickeil Alexander-Walker filled in the last game and scored 37 points, which is higher than Lonzo’s career high, by the way.

Zion Williamson has been cleared to play from COVID-19 protocols, which is obviously huge.

The Pelicans have been a mess this season. Last year, they were a top-10 defense but couldn’t score. Now they’re in the bottom 10 in Offensive Rating, bottom five in pace and top 10 in defense.

However, in the last five games, half their season, the Pelicans’ offense has been middling (14th) and their defense is ranked 23rd.

This matchup is better than it was last year, just because the Pelicans have two bigs in Zion and Steven Adams to combat the Lakers’ frontline. They don’t have wing defenders vs. LeBron James, but who does?

The bigger challenge is defense. With Williamson on the court, the Pelicans are giving up 109.5 points per 100 possessions, their second-highest number behind Redick.

Against top-10 teams in Offensive Rating, the Pelicans are -8.3 in spread differential, third-worst in the league, and 0-2 straight up. Against teams in the top 10 in Defensive Rating, the Pelicans are 0-2 with a -9.5 spread differential.

The Pelicans want to challenge inside, and Marc Gasol is no spring chicken. New Orleans allows the fewest points in the paint, which is good for a matchup with the Lakers’ offense.

Los Angeles Lakers

Anthony “Questionable To Return” Davis (back) is a go for this game , while Jared Dudley is out with calf soreness and Wesley Matthews is questionable with Achilles soreness. The Lakers have the wing depth to compensate.

The Lakers are a machine right now. They have a top-five offense and the No. 1 defense (after Philly lost half of their team for almost a week). Here’s their Net Rating by quarter:

Quarter 1: +5.5
Quarter 2: +19.3
Quarter 3: +8.5
Quarter 4: +7.9

The Lakers are above .500 in quarter spreads in all four quarters, as in, they’ve covered each quarter’s spread more than they’ve let the other team cover. In first halves, they are 8-5 and in second halves, they are 7-4.

The Lakers’ offense has been similar to last year in that they still don’t take that many 3-point attempts; the Lakers are 23rd in the frequency of 3-point shots via Cleaning The Glass. However, they are shooting from distance incredibly well this season; the Lakers are shooting 39.6% from 3-point land, third best in the league.

A lot of this matchup depends on how the Pelicans defend the pick and roll. The Lakers rely a ton on mid-range shots to take advantage of the defense. The Pelicans allow the most 3-pointers by frequency in the league.

Here’s the big key, via Second Spectrum data provided to Action Network: The Pelicans have given up the most passes from the ball-handler in the pick and roll this season and the most 3-pointers allowed from those passes in the league this season.

So the Pelicans are likely to play drop coverage, get over the screen on LeBron and leave shooters open.

Pelicans-Lakers Pick

The tickets and money have come in on the Pelicans as I write this; 58% of the tickets and 56% of the money are on them in our Action Network app. However, the line has moved the other way, going from Lakers -8.5 to -9.

This is a lot of points to lay up front for a team with talent, even as dominant as the Lakers have gone. The concern has to be Los Angeles having an off shooting night and that messing with it.

The majority of the tickets are on the over (71%), but the majority of the money (57%) is on the under.

The paths to the over:

  • The Lakers get red hot from 3-point range against that Pelicans defensive coverage, which is very possible.
  • And the Pelicans’ mediocre offense gets going against a dominant defensive team without one of their best facilitators in Ball and possibly Bledsoe, who puts pressure on the rim.

Now, the paths to the under:

  • The Pelicans, one of the slowest-paced teams in the league, struggle to score against a team with the size and skill to pressure their ball-handlers and combat the big-to-big passing of the Pelicans.
  • Even if the Lakers are hot, the under can still hit in a slow pace game where the Lakers are very efficient and the Pelicans are smothered.

So I like the under at 220.

Even with the slower pace, I like James’ over prop on assists based on that defensive coverage. You can find 7.5’s on the market (FanDuel) using our props tool. We have this projected at 8.4, make sure you get the best number, but I’d still play it to 8.5, I think based on the scheme, our projection is low.

I like the Lakers (-2.5, -110 at FanDuel) 2nd quarter. The Lakers are 10-3 against the spread in second quarters, via EVAnalytics. You can get (-2, -118) at DraftKings if you’re willing to pay the 8 cents for the hook, but given the lineups, I feel comfortable at -2.5.

A big key in that? The Lakers’ rotations have stabilized to play James heavily to start the second quarter without Davis, and those lineups are +8.8. Then, when James sits and Davis plays without James, those lineups are +28.8 in N et Rating in the second quarter. They destroy teams.

One final play: There’s been significant data that teams are not “rubber-banding.” Essentially, when a team blows the door open, teams are not coming back on them.

In case you missed it, blowouts usually get slowed down by the rubber-band effect (trailing team performs better when down and vice versa).

This season so far, it's happening almost in reverse after about +7 points.

— Nathan Walker (@bbstats) January 4, 2021

I took that data and looked at how many times a team that was up 10 at half wound up covering the spread by five points or more. That’s happened in six of the Lakers’ games this season, the most in the league. If you want that in English? If the Lakers are up double digits but not by 20 at half, I’ll be looking to live bet the Lakers’ line to cover anything under 20. The Pelicans have to be in the game at half to hang in.

Pick: Under 220 | Lakers -2.5 second quarter | LeBron James assists | Potential live line on Lakers at halftime if up double digits

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