Depleted Pelicans look to make most of matchup vs. Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers and the New Orleans Pelicans have been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention for a while.
Both have lost several players to injuries and are taking an extended look at younger players as the season winds down to try and figure out who is worth retaining during their impending rebuilding efforts.
They will be utilizing very different lineups than they planned on using when they meet Sunday night in New Orleans.
"We're bloodied, but not bowed," Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said after practice Saturday.
But in nearly the same breath, Gentry said forward Darius Miller, who suffered an adductor strain in a 121-118 home victory against Sacramento on Thursday, likely won't play again this season.
Point guard Frank Jackson won't play against the Lakers because of a concussion and All-Star forward Anthony Davis (lower backs spasms) will be a game-time decision.
Two starters -- guard Jrue Holiday and forward E'Twaun Moore -- saw their seasons come to premature ends because of injury, and New Orleans traded Nikola Mirotic to Milwaukee at the trading deadline.
Forward Christian Wood has played in just three games since being claimed off waivers March 20, but he already has shown significant potential.
He has scored a career-high in points the last two games, getting 23 in a loss to Atlanta on Tuesday and 25 against Sacramento.
"I'm not surprised," Wood said. "I've always had this confidence. I am a little surprised at how many minutes Coach is giving me. I'm making the most of my opportunity. I feel like I'm getting into a groove."
New Orleans has used 30 different starting lineups this season and the one it has used most frequently has only been utilized nine times. The one Gentry envisioned being his nightly lineup was together for just five games and the Pelicans won all five of those games.
The Lakers are closing in on the Pelicans, having utilized 24 different starting lineups.
Three of their top young players -- guard Josh Hart (knee), guard Lonzo Ball (ankle) and forward Brandon Ingram (shoulder) -- are done for the season.
But it was one of the oldest Lakers -- 33-year-old guard Rajon Rondo, who played with the Pelicans last season -- who stood out in a 129-115 home victory against Charlotte on Friday.
Rondo had 17 assists -- tying the most by a Laker in 21 years -- as Los Angeles shot 56.0 percent from the floor and 47.4 percent on 3-pointers.
The victory dealt a blow to the Hornets' hopes of making the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. Playing the role of spoiler is about all that is left for the Lakers as they complete their sixth consecutive losing season.
"We wanted to be in the playoffs as bad as the other team, but, unfortunately, we're not there," said Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who had 25 points. "So why not wreck some other teams?"
Los Angeles had lost six of eight before Friday night. So, the victory added something significant to the experience the young players have been getting.
"If you can't win, you can't really enjoy it," rookie guard Mo Wagner told the Los Angeles Daily News.
The home team has won each of the previous meetings with the Pelicans prevailing 128-115 on Feb. 23 and the Lakers winning 112-104 on Dec. 21 and 125-119 on Feb. 27.
--Field Level Media
Updated March 30, 2019