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Lakers at New Orleans Pelicans preview

Kobe Bryant will be in the lineup tonight as Lakers take on the New Orleans Pelicans

Kobe Bryant is expected to return to the lineup Wednesday night when the Lakers (12-30) visit the New Orleans Pelicans (20-21).

Bryant has rested the last two games and five of the Lakers' previous eight, dealing with the rigors of old age (at least in the basketball world).  The Lakers have lost their last five and eight of 10 in January.

The Pelicans expect to have Anthony Davis back from a toe injury but Jrue Holiday (ankle) remains questionable.

New Orleans is currently in 10th place in the Western Conference, trying to overcome a four-game deficit behind the Phoenix Suns (25-18) for the eighth playoff spot. The Pelicans are also a game in back of the Oklahoma City Thunder (21-20).

The Lakers will play without Tarik Black (ankle), Julius Randle (knee) and Steve Nash (back). Carlos Boozer is expected to play through a bruised triceps.  Ronnie Price (elbow) is a game-time decision.

Key matchup

Davis, in just his third year, may already be the best power forward in the game.

The competition is certainly stiff with players like Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge and Kevin Love, among others, but Davis is the best defender of the bunch.

Additionally, Davis is averaging 24.2 points a game, shooting 56.1% from the field.  He's also pulling down 10.4 rebounds and blocking 2.9 shots per contest.

The Lakers will try to combat him with Ed Davis, Jordan Hill, Robert Sacre and Boozer. Black, who has played well for the Lakers of late, would be an interesting matchup on Davis, defensively, but he won't be available.

Offensively, the Lakers would benefit from Hill and Boozer's ability to shoot the outside shot, potentially pulling Davis away from the basket.

X-factor

Bryant has had more success this season when he's a willing passer. In his last game, a 109-102 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Bryant dished a career-high 17 assists to go with 19 points on 50% shooting from the field (7-14).

Through four appearances in January, Bryant is averaging 9.0 assists a game but is still shooting just 34.2% from the field with a pair of difficult games (two-for-12 against the Clippers and three-for-19 vs. the Miami Heat).

Coach Byron Scott is limiting Bryant to 32 minutes, along with a light work schedule including sitting out games, with hopes that he'll be able to preserve his body in the future.

If Bryant isn't rusty against the Pelicans, the extra rest could help the All-Star give the Lakers a boost.

With a number of his teammates hurt in recent games, the Pelicans' Tyreke Evans has taken on a major role, as scorer, playmaker and even rebounder.

On the season, Evans is averaging 17.1 points with 5.3 assists and 5.6 rebounds.

Outlook

Anthony Davis' return should trump Kobe Bryant's as the Lakers drop their sixth straight.

Email Eric Pincus at eric.pincus@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.

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