Season-finishing triumph over Lakers?

Season-finishing triumph over Lakers?


Pelicans can clinch playoff spot with season-ending victory over Lakers

Forward Zion Williamson (1) and the Pelicans will stare down the Los Angeles Lakers with a guaranteed playoff spot on the line Sunday afternoon at the Smoothie King Center.

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) – On the surface, it’s a simple task facing the Pelicans on Sunday afternoon: Win and you’re in.

A victory over the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2:30 p.m. game at the Smoothie King Center would lock the Pelicans into the NBA playoffs as the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference. That means a certain postseason berth and a few days of rest while the teams seeded 7-10 battle for two remaining spots in the play-in tournament, where nothing is guaranteed.

The Pelicans could lose and still clinch the No. 6 seed, but only if the Phoenix Suns also lose their season finale against Minnesota, in a game that also tips off at 2:30 p.m. CDT.

If the Pelicans lose and the Suns win, Phoenix would move into the sixth seed, by virtue of holding a tiebreaker advantage. New Orleans would fall into the play-in tournament.

A Pelicans victory also would mean just the second 50-win season in franchise history. The 2007-08 team went 56-26 as the New Orleans Hornets.

New Orleans (49-32) is favored by 3 1/2 points to get the job done Sunday on most sports books.

But standing in the way are the Lakers (46-35), led by LeBron James and former Pels star Anthony Davis, who have incentive of their own.

The Lakers would clinch the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference if they win, or if both the Sacramento Kings and Golden State Warriors lose. If the Lakers lose, they could fall all the way to the 10th seed, depending on the Kings’ and Warriors’ results.

“Of course, seeds matter,” James told the Associated Press. “But wherever you fall, you take that challenge.”

The Lakers lead the season series against the Pelicans, 2-1. But Coach Willie Green’s Pelicans come in hot, having won four road games in a row after a near-disastrous 1-5 homestand.

The Pelicans also could get the boost of Brandon Ingram’s return Sunday. The forward has been upgraded to questionable with a left knee bone bruise that has sidelined him since he was injured March 21 in Orlando.

Forwards Naji Marshall (left shoulder bruise) and Larry Nance Jr. (personal) also could be available for Sunday’s showdown.

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