On Friday evening, the Los Angeles Lakers will take on the New Orleans Pelicans for the first time ever. Formerly known as the Hornets, the Pelicans changed their image over the summer to usher a new era for the franchise.
The last time the Lakers met New Orleans, Kobe Bryant put in a vintage “Vino” performance. The Lakers entered the fourth quarter level at 70 points, and Bryant took over the game. He shot 7-11 from the field and 8-9 from the foul line for 23 points in the deciding quarter. On the night, Bryant finished with 30 points, six rebounds, and six assists.
However, the Black Mamba is not available for Friday’s contest.
No worries, Lakers' fans, because the “Vino Blanco,” also known as Steve Blake, is available. Fresh off his game-winner against Dwight Howard’s Houston Rockets, Blake struts into the New Orleans Arena on the back of a 4-6 performance from behind the arc. The Lakers have been scorching from distance, and Blake is not alone in his elevated temperature from long range.
As a team, the Lakers are shooting over 40 percent from three-point-land. Excluding Ryan Kelly’s one make on one attempt this season, Jodie Meeks leads the team with 50.0 percent from behind the arc. Steve Nash, who does not expect to play against the Pelicans, is next on that list with 45.5 percent on 3-pointers this season. Blake is the third of four players averaging over 40 percent at 45.2 percent. The last of the three-point specialists is the unlikely figure of Pau Gasol.
Gasol was clearly working on his distance shooting in the preseason, and that work has translated to the regular season. Gasol is shooting 42.9 percent from distance through six games this season. However, the Spaniard's inside game seems to have suffered.
Gasol is shooting a career-low 36.8 percent from the field and averaging a career-low 12.5 points per game. To put these numbers in perspective, Gasol only averaged 13.7 points last season, but he shot 46.6 percent from the field. In his 14th season, Gasol has a career-average of 18.3 points on 51.7 percent shooting. Though a sample size of six games is rather small, the early warning bells have been sounded. Gasol needs to provide a greater offensive lift—especially until Bryant returns.
On Friday night, the Pelicans enter their arena having won two of their last three games and boasting a 2-3 record on the season. Anthony Davis, the 2012 first pick overall, leads a young roster that includes former LA Clipper Eric Gordon and former UCLA Bruin Jrue Holiday. Davis leads the Pelicans in points and rebounds, averaging a double-double. He also leads the team in blocks and steals.
Don’t let the unibrow fool you, Davis can play.
The Lakers at Pelicans tips at 5:00pm PST.