The New Orleans Pelicans and the Los Angeles Lakers face each other for the second time in five nights Wednesday, with both teams' playoff hopes fading.
The Pelicans, who defeated the Lakers 128-115 on Saturday in New Orleans, head to Los Angeles for the rematch.
New Orleans followed its victory over the Lakers with a 111-110 home loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday. At the same time, the Lakers were losing 110-105 to the Grizzlies in Memphis.
The matchup of the two seemingly lottery-bound teams is likely to be overshadowed by the presence of LeBron James and Anthony Davis on the floor as opponents for the first time since Davis asked last month for the Pelicans to trade him. The Lakers reportedly were his top choice for a new team.
New Orleans held Davis out of the Saturday game against the Lakers to "rest" him as the team continues to limit his playing time after retaining his services at the trade deadline. Davis started against the 76ers but played just 20 minutes and sat out the final 17-plus minutes. He finished with 18 points and six rebounds.
While the Lakers are expected to renew their push to trade for Davis during the offseason after failing to meet the Pelicans' price before the trading deadline, James is fighting an uphill battle to lead the team to the playoffs.
He recorded a triple-double Monday and entered the NBA's top 10 in career assists, but it wasn't enough to prevent a loss to the lowly Grizzlies. James had 24 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists, but he made just 8 of 23 field-goal attempts.
More important, Los Angeles lost for the fourth time in five games and the seventh time in 10 games, further weakening its postseason hopes.
"At this point, if you are still allowing distractions to affect the way you play, then this is the wrong franchise to be a part of," James said of his teammates. "And you should just come and be like, 'Listen, I can't do this.'
"Seriously? If you're distracted by playoff pushes, out of all the stuff that's been talked about this year -- just come and do your job, do our job at a high level. That's not a distraction. That's what you want. That's what you want every game. You want to feel like you're fighting for something."
While Davis was out down the stretch against the Sixers, New Orleans rallied from a 15-point deficit and had a chance to win in the final seconds, but Philadelphia's Jimmy Butler blocked E'Twaun Moore's 3-point attempt.
Coach Alvin Gentry called "unfair" a question about whether his team played harder without Davis on the floor than it did with him on the floor.
Either way, the limited minutes have forced an adjustment by Davis, a six-time All-Star who is just 25 years old.
"It's tough if I just play first and third (quarters)," Davis said. "You know I'm sitting out like 45 minutes or something like that, and it's tough to get back warm. So, you know, Coach came to me today and said, 'You want to switch it up?' ... So that way I can stay in a rhythm longer."
Thus Davis' minutes have been spread across the first three quarters with him sitting out the fourth, a pattern that Gentry said Tuesday likely will continue.
"I've never been a guy who sat in the fourth quarter," Davis said. "So it's a little tough, but you know I'll sit on the bench and cheer for these guys. They did a good job."
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