New Orleans Pelicans vs. Los Angeles Lakers Pick & Prediction APRIL 14th 2024

The New Orleans Pelicans can secure the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference playoffs by beating the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday.

The Lakers can clinch the No. 8 spot and strengthen their position for the play-in tournament by winning.

A lot is at stake for both teams as they meet in the regular-season finale in New Orleans.

New Orleans (49-32) won at Golden State, 114-109, on Friday to complete a sweep of a four-game road trip after losing the final four games of its most recent homestand.

“You’ve got to take care of what you can take care of,” said Pelicans guard CJ McCollum, who had 28 points against Golden State. “Prepare for another tough game … and try and get one before the playoffs start.”

The Pelicans still can claim the final playoff spot if they lose, provided seventh-place Phoenix (48-33) loses at Minnesota on Sunday.

McCollum made 8 of 13 3-pointers against the Warriors, including five during a game-changing second quarter in which New Orleans outscored Golden State 45-22 to turn a nine-point deficit into a 14-point halftime lead.

The Pelicans held off repeated second-half charges by Golden State. The victory gave New Orleans the best road record in the NBA this season (28-14), which also is a franchise best.

But now the Pelicans need a victory at home, where they have lost five of their past six, to guarantee that they can avoid the play-in tournament, which they participated in the last two seasons.

“One job,” McCollum said of the task.

New Orleans hopes that forward Brandon Ingram, the team’s second-leading scorer (20.9 points per game), can return Sunday after being out since March 21 because of a hyper-extended knee. The Pelicans are 7-5 during his absence.

The Lakers (46-35) welcomed back their second-leading scorer — forward Anthony Davis — in a 123-120 victory at Memphis on Friday night. Davis, who averages 24.6 points, had 36 along with 14 rebounds after missing a loss against the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday because of an eye injury.

Davis said he had “no issues” with the eye against the Grizzlies.

“I felt pretty good out there,” he said.

LeBron James scored 37 points, including six in the final minute, and had nine rebounds for L.A, which moved past the Warriors and the Sacramento Kings into the eighth spot. From the No. 8 spot, Los Angeles would have to win one of two games to advance to the playoffs rather than facing a single-elimination game in the 9-10 match-up.

“Every game matters. Every seed matters,” James said. “Wherever you fall, you can’t play in the past. Seeds matter, and wherever you fall, you take that challenge.”

James played 40-plus minutes and Davis played 42-plus minutes against Memphis.

“We all understand what’s at stake,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said. “Everyone knows what time it is. It’s that time of the year. Whatever we need, and however long we need to push guys, we’ve got to have it, and they understand that.”

L.A. is 2-1 in three lopsided games with New Orleans this season. The Lakers won 133-89 in the semifinals of the NBA In-Season Tournament on Dec. 7 in Las Vegas and 139-122 on Feb. 9 in Los Angeles. The Pelicans won 129-109 on New Year’s Eve in New Orleans.

–Field Level Media

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