The Los Angeles Lakers and New Orleans Pelicans open the play-in tournament. Who will step up to play the defending champion Denver Nuggets in the first round?

Catch the game tomorrow at  7:30 AM, Manila time.

AWAY: Los Angeles Lakers (47-35,19-21 AWAY)

Projected starting five:

  • D’Angelo Russell
  • Austin Reaves
  • LeBron James
  • Rui Hachimura
  • Anthony Davis (day-to-day)

Though hot-and-cold all 2023-24, the Lakers closed out their regular season with an 11-3 record across their last 14 games, averaging 122.1 points per game and allowing 115.9 on the other end. It included Monday’s 124-108 win over the Pelicans.

The Lakers also won their regular season series with the Pels, 3-1, with a +14.2 point differential. The production from the main guys was great too, as LeBron James (28.2), Anthony Davis (21.5), D’Angelo Russell (21.0), and Austin Reaves (21.0) all averaged 20 or more points in the head-to-head. You also have to take into account the resurgence from Rui Hachimura ever since becoming an official starter. He has 17.0 points and 5.2 rebounds on 58.0% shooting (46.9% from three) in his last 29 outings.

Here’s one major concern, though: Davis’s health. The big man played a career-high 76 games in the season, but reportedly injured his back in the Pelicans game. He may be a game-time decision.


HOME: New Orleans Pelicans (49-33, 21-19 HOME)

Projected starting five:

  • CJ McCollum
  • Brandon Ingram
  • Herb Jones
  • Zion Williamson
  • Jonas Valanciunas

The Pelicans had a four-game winning streak late in their regular season, but they were 4-5 in their last nine games with a -1.9 point differential (111.1 PPG, 113.0 PAPG). Three of those defeats also came by 12 or more points, including the aforementioned season finale vs. LAL.

Nevertheless, the onus is on the top three scorers: Zion Williamson (22.9 PPG), Brandon Ingram (20.8 PPG), and CJ McCollum (20.0 PPG). All three averaged less in their four meetings with the Lakers compared to their season averages, and should be focused to be better. 

Big man Jonas Valanciunas, and wings Herb Jones and Trey Murphy III (18.1 PPG, 41.7 3FG%) will be the complementary weapons for the trio. Murphy III gets a slightly bigger spotlight as he has showcased lights out shooting whenever he’s on, as evident in the 10 threes he sunk just last month.


Spread: Pelicans (-1.5)

Over/Under: Under (224)