The Los Angeles Lakers were able to end the 2020-21 regular season on a high note, earning a 110-98 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans.
The Lakers raced out to a 12-6 lead thanks to Dennis Schroder, who was able to knock down open jumpers and get all the way to the cup. Schroder briefly extended the lead to nine after hitting his second 3-pointer, but the Pelicans were able to cut it back down to five with a couple of drives to the rim.
LeBron James had no issues carving up New Orleans’ interior defense, consistently getting open looks near the basket to keep Los Angeles comfortably in front. Marc Gasol and Alex Caruso made plays on the offensive end and the Lakers would go into the second leading 36-28.
Wesley Matthews knocked down a three off good perimeter ball movement, and then later got an easy layup off a Gasol backdoor pass. New Orleans’ bench did a good job of battling back and cutting Los Angeles’ lead to single digits, but a James 3-pointer and free throws pushed the lead back to 11.
However, the Lakers let their foot off the gas pedal and allowed the Pelicans to make a 7-0 run to get within four. The finish to the quarter was frenetic as both teams were able to push the ball in transition but a buzzer-beating New Orleans 3-pointer from nearly halfcourt left Los Angeles with a 63-59 lead.
Aside from a Kentavious Caldwell-Pope three, the Lakers got off to a slow start in the third as they had trouble slowing down a feisty Pelicans squad. Andre Drummond was able to provide a spark with plays on both sides of the floor, allowing L.A. to cling to a slim three-point lead.
The Lakers were able to take more control of the game as they were able to start getting stops, while Kyle Kuzma delivered the play of the night as he threw the basketball off the glass to himself for a dunk. Los Angeles then blew the game open in the closing minutes to take a commanding 91-76 lead into the fourth.
There was a scary moment in the fourth as Jaxson Hayes was helped off the floor after colliding with Gasol on a dunk attempt. However, the Lakers suffered their own injury scare as James appeared to re-roll his right ankle but seemed in good spirits on the bench.
Midway through the period, head coach Frank Vogel opted to play his bench unit with the Lakers ahead double digits. The team was able to maintain their advantage and end the season with a victory.
Unfortunately though, the win was rather meanigless as the Lakers still finish in seventh in the Western Conference and will be in the Play-In Tournament this week.
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