Pelicans vs. Lakers Predictions: LeBron, Zion’s In-Season Tournament Semifinal Clash

Written by: Grant Mitchell
Published December 7, 2023
6 min read

The New Orleans Pelicans and Los Angeles Lakers are going toe-to-toe in the NBA In-Season Tournament semifinal in Las Vegas, Nevada on Thursday night.

The Pelicans advanced out of the quarterfinal with a 127-117 win against the Sacramento Kings. The Lakers, on the other hand, beat the Phoenix Suns 106-103 behind an all-time performance from LeBron James.

As we continue, we will go over the betting odds and our favorite picks for the Pelicans vs. Lakers In-Season Tournament matchup.

Pelicans vs Lakers Predictions

Pelicans vs. Lakers Betting Odds for Thursday, Dec. 7

The Lakers are 2.5-point favorites in the penultimate matchup of the In-Season Tournament. They’re 9-2 at home and 4-7 on the road, but this “neutral-court matchup” is a de facto Lakers home game because of how close Vegas is to LA, and how many Lakers fans live there.

TeamsSpreadMoneylineTotal
New Orleans Pelicans+2.5 (-115)+105Over 229.5 (-115)
Los Angeles Lakers-2.5 (-105)-130Under 229.5 (-105)

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The purple and gold have started to pour it on recently, winning seven of their last 10 games. Although they’ve paled in comparison to top teams such as the Philadelphia 76ers and Oklahoma City Thunder, they’ve handled their business against teams at or below their level and have already come away with a few gutsy wins.

Their victory over Phoenix was highly impressive. Despite shooting just 37.3% from the floor, they won on the back of their defensive activity and dominance on the interior. They forced the Suns to commit 20 turnovers (11 of which were generated by steals) and came up with 21 offensive rebounds, nearly 2.5 times more than their season average (8.8).

The Lakers are at their most dangerous when they’re making their three-point shots. To be fair, that isn’t often, as they’re only 29th in percentage from downtown (33.5%). However, they have an incredibly high ceiling when they are making their shots, and also do enough even when they aren’t to remain competitive against most of the league.

Keep an eye on LA’s two stars in this one. LeBron James hasn’t been fully healthy for a playoff game since the 2019-2020 championship run, and the quarterfinal matchup against Phoenix was the first time we’ve seen him at 100% in that type of environment. He responded by playing a game-high 40 minutes and putting up 31 points, 11 assists, eight rebounds, and five steals, his first 20/10/5/5 game since 2008.

Anthony Davis has a major role to play in this game. He scored 20 first-half points against Phoenix but only managed seven in the second half, which is the type of inconsistency that has plagued him in recent years.

Scoring aside, Davis has been a menace on the interior. He’s first in blocks (2.8) and second in rebounds (12.6) per game and is averaging 27 points, 14.5 rebounds, and 3.5 blocks in two games this month.

The Pelicans were one of the streakiest teams in the league last year. They’ve shown more stability this season and are almost fully healthy for the first time since the start of the campaign, with Trey Murphy, C.J. McCollum, and Jose Alvarado all recently making their returns to the lineup.

Brandon Ingram led the team with 3- points, eight rebounds, and six assists in the quarterfinal win against the Kings. All members of the starting lineup scored double-digit points, while Murphy added another 16 off the bench, and the team made 45.2% of its triples.

The Pels are only 19th in defensive rating but have outstanding individual matchups for most teams. Herb Jones is a game-wrecker, and Alvardo, Murphy, Ingram, and Dyson Daniels can do a job on most players they line up across from.

New Orleans prefers to deal most of its damage in the painted area. They're ninth in points in the paint per game and 10th in fast break points, though they too struggle to make their threes (35.7% - 19th).

One area where this team is highly vulnerable is on the glass. Despite having tremendous size and length, they’re only 19th in rebound rate. That said, they’ve shown a greater commitment to the boards lately and are second in rebound percentage over their last 10 games.

The Pelicans have not been good in clutch games. They’re 3-4 in games decided by five points or less and 27th in net rating during clutch moments (games within five points in the final five minutes). 

The Lakers, for comparison, are third in clutch net rating and have the best clutch defensive rating.

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Pelicans vs. Lakers Prediction and Betting Pick

Even though neither team leaps off the page in defensive metrics, both are going to approach this game with a defense-first mindset. 

We talked about the players the Pelicans have that can disrupt opponents’ flow, but the Lakers also have guys such as Cam Reddish, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Taurean Prince to match. Their activity against the Suns, whose two best players are better than anyone on the Pelicans, showed how lethal they can be on that side of the court.

Either team will be able to separate itself if it can make its three-point shots. If both are in the same ballpark, the Lakers’ ability to dominate the glass with Davis and LeBron, especially in late-game scenarios, gives them an advantage.

We like the Lakers to win and cover this one. The Pelicans don’t have their late-game hierarchy figured out just yet, and LeBron has been arguably the most clutch player in the league this season. He has also been vocal about wanting to win the tournament, and we believe he’ll approach this as if it’s a playoff game and will lead his team to a victory.

  • Pelicans vs. Lakers pick: Lakers -2.5 (-105) at BetMGM

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Grant Mitchell

Sports Betting Analyst & On-Air Host

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Grant is a sports and sports betting journalist who prides himself on delivering breaking news and insightful analyses of the industry. Grant graduated from Virginia Tech in 2021 and is feverishly pursuing his ambitions in the sports betting field. In his free time, Grant can be found passionately watching sports, doing a workout, or searching for adventure with his friends.
Nationality: American
Education: Bachelor in Sports Media and Analytics
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