HomeSportsLakers know Pelicans pose problems in the rematch, but so does complacency

Lakers know Pelicans pose problems in the rematch, but so does complacency

The Lakers will have to defend against CJ MCollum, the Pelicans guard who makes three-point shots from all angles on the court.

The Lakers will have to defend against forward Brandon Ingram, their former first-round draft pick who has become one of the strongest shot makers in the NBA.

The Lakers will have to defend against Herb Jones and Trey Murphy III on the perimeter, two capable three-point shooters. They will also have to defend against Zion Williamson, the explosively athletic big man with an unusual combination of size, speed and strength.

You’d think that would be enough to deal with before their play-in tournament game with the Pelicans on Tuesday at the Smoothie King Center. Instead, the Lakers might have to defend against something else.

Complacency.

After dominating the Pelicans on Sunday during a 124-108 victory in a game that both teams desperately wanted to win, some NBA followers, like ESPN’s Mike Greenberg, have suggested that the Lakers lose on Tuesday on purpose to draw a game in the first round with the defending side. champion Denver Nuggets.

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Read more: LeBron James’ triple-double helps Lakers secure eighth place for the play-in game

Greenberg said on ESPN’s “Get Up” show that the risk of ending up in a single-elimination game against the Golden State Warriors or the Sacramento Kings was less than the risk of playing Denver in the first round — as if the Lakers simply did that can do. beat the Pelicans on Tuesday if they want to.

The winner between the Lakers and the Pelicans will open the playoffs in Denver on Saturday. The loser of that game will play the winner of Sacramento-Golden State at home on Friday with a chance to face top-seeded Oklahoma City.

While there is natural anticipation once the playoffs are set, players like LeBron James knew the Lakers were effectively in a playoff series that they needed to win the first two games on the road.

And after winning Road Game 1 in the first and second rounds last year, the Lakers lost Game 2 twice – neither of which was particularly close.

“You don’t get too high on one win because you have to come back and play again,” James warned on Sunday after the victory in New Orleans. “…Tuesday’s match will be extremely tough, extremely difficult and extremely physical. I’ve always known that when you play a playoff series – and I think of this as a two-game playoff series – if you win that first game, a team has several days to sit on that feeling , or with that taste in their mouth of defeat. So they will be extremely ready for us and we have to come in with the same sense of urgency as we did in the last game.”

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However, the Lakers have good reasons to be positive about where they are now. They had won nine of 10 games before illness and injury prevented them from suffering complete defeats to Minnesota and Golden State. They picked up an ugly win on Friday before continuing on on Sunday.

“You could just feel the atmosphere when we did our walk through the hotel yesterday,” coach Darvin Ham said Sunday. “We watched a movie. A lot of guys were disappointed with how we didn’t completely drop the rope because of some of the mistakes we made in that Memphis game. I’m just trying to make sure we’re as tight as possible on both sides of the ball in terms of our execution. So we wanted to come out early and set the tone defensively. And also sets the tone offensively by not settling. Defensively, with multiple tries.”

At the forefront was James, who took on the responsibility of guarding Williamson.

“I just want to win, so whatever the game throws up, if it needs me to have more attacking and scoring range, or if it needs me to be more of a set-up guy, if it needs me to I’m more of a defender, I have to do it all,” James said. “I’m a Swiss army knife, so I have to do it all on the ground and none of it is predetermined.”

The only thing they can do, the Lakers say, is the game in front of them. And when it comes to tempting fate, the Lakers can’t risk anything.

“Up and down season,” Anthony Davis said. “We had our highlights. We had our lows. We had our share of injuries. Like I said, 12 games above .500. Obviously we don’t want to be in this position, but it is. From Tuesday we will make the best of it one by one.”

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This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

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