The Lakers had several chances to pull away in the third and fourth quarters, but the Pelicans held on before heating up the Crypto.com Arena by holding the Lakers to three points in the final three minutes. A 3-pointer by Jonas Valanciunas reversed the trend, before Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum finished the job to almost secure their team’s play-in qualification.
The two teams spent the first half side by side. It was CJ McCollum, author of a four of four triples in the first quarter, who launched the hostilities but nine points from LeBron James kept the Lakers on the prowl (30-25). The “King” continues to drive him as Anthony Davis slowly but surely finds his rhythm. CJ McCollum and the Pelicans are clumsy, and at halftime the score and direction (20 of 42 for both teams) are tied (50-50).
Brandon Ingram’s awakening keeps the Pelicans ahead by a slim lead, but LeBron James takes matters into his own hands. He relentlessly attacks the opposing defense and scores 21 points in the third quarter. Also with a good pass from Davis, the Lakers take the lead but can’t get past their opponent. On the contrary, the return of CJ McCollum allows the Pelicans to stay on the heels of Los Angeles (87-86).
The Spurs’ win earlier in the night had put a little more pressure on the Lakers and while LeBron James and his crew seemed poised to make a difference, they ended up cracking at the worst time. So here they are one more loss than the Spurs, who have the tiebreaker. It was the fifth loss in a row for the Lakers for whom “play-in” is becoming more and more illusory.
WHAT TO REMEMBER
– Frank Vogel shakes up his rotation. With the return of Anthony Davis, Frank Vogel adjusted and opted to tighten his rotation. The return of his star pushed Austin Reaves to the bench but the coach also bet on the tenure of Avery Bradley. More surprisingly, Austin Reaves but also Talen Horton-Tucker, still firmly established in the Lakers’ rotation, did not walk the court last night. With his team’s season at stake, Frank Vogel preferred to privilege Bradley’s experience but also DJ Augustin’s.
– James, Davis, Ingram and McCollum get away with it. With the play-in race in the background, it was to be expected that the stars of both teams responded, and they did not disappoint, especially in the third quarter. As LeBron James continues to push the supposed limits of his age, Brandon Ingram has answered him well with 15 points. Behind them, CJ McCollum (8 points) and Anthony Davis (15 points) also performed well in a fight that resembled a cockfight.
– The Pelicans have a heart! On the verge of breaking down for much of the fourth quarter, the Pelicans pulled in their resources, especially on defense, to stop the Lakers every time they could get more than a 5-point lead. Led 108-105 with three minutes left in the match, it was a winning shot from Jonas Valanciunas, who was left alone all match, to the head of the racket, which was the turning point of “money time”. If Ingram and McCollum were decisive, it was Willie Green’s entire roster that shone when necessary as the Lakers sank.
✅ Brandon Ingram. Discreet in the first half, he accelerated after the break, scoring 23 of his 29 points there. He also had 7 rebounds and 7 assists.
✅ CJ McCollum. The Pelicans guard was the metronome of his team throughout the game and finished with 32 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists.
✅ Jonas Valančiūnas. The third offensive thief of New Orleans with 17 points, 12 rebounds and 6 assists, and above all that decisive triple that marked the change in the game.
✅ ⛔ Lebron James. Author of 21 of his 38 points in the third quarter, LeBron James, like last week in New Orleans, carried his team on his shoulders but again lacked juice in the last quarter, where he did not score just 2 points.
✅ ⛔ Anthony Davis. For his return to competition, AD immediately resumed his place as “King James’s” lieutenant. He finished the game with 23 points, 12 rebounds and 6 assists in 37 minutes of play, but like his teammate, he disappeared in the fourth quarter, certainly lacking energy after weeks away from the court.
⛔ Russell Westbrook. The Lakers point guard lacked success through the first three quarters, before redeeming himself with 10 points in the final period. He still finished the game 5-for-15 shooting.
Los Angeles (31-46) :the Lakers continue against the Nuggets on Sunday
New Orleans (34-43): The Pelicans stay in Los Angeles and will face the Clippers on Sunday.