The Los Angeles Lakers hosted the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday night in the final game before the All-Star break hoping to make up some ground in the standings.
LeBron James returned to action after missing the last three games with an ankle issue and that led to a much-needed victory for the Lakers, cruising to a 120-102 win.
The Lakers debuted a new-look starting five that included their three big trade deadline acquisitions in D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt alongside James and Anthony Davis. The result was a quick start as L.A. scored the first eight points of the game. After Russell found Davis for a lob to extend the lead to 12-2, the Pelicans were forced to call an early timeout.
CJ McCollum finally got the Pelicans going with back-to-back 3-pointers. Beasley responded with five straight points of his own though to maintain the Lakers’ double-digit lead early.
The pieces on the Lakers’ second unit seemed to also fit together well during their first shift. Troy Brown Jr. hit a pair of 3s, including a buzzer-beater to give L.A. a 38-25 lead going into the second.
New Orleans began the second quarter with five straight points before James was fouled on a 3-point attempt and made all three free throws.
The Lakers struggled to gain any separation in the second quarter though, allowing the Pelicans to slowly chip away. As a result, L.A.’s lead going into the halftime locker room was just four at 55-51.
After a quiet first half, Brandon Ingram started to get going in the third quarter with some midrange buckets. The Lakers responded by getting out in transition though, building their lead back to nine after a LeBron layup.
Davis and Russell displayed their instant connection in the third quarter, going to the pick-and-roll for some buckets inside while also getting to the free throw line. The only problem was that L.A. missed a bunch of those free throws, so again, they were not able to gain the separation they were looking for.
That is until the end of the third when Russell got the crowd going with another 3 and then Austin Reaves got in the action with one of his own to extend the lead to 89-75 going into the fourth.
The Lakers continued to extend that lead early in the fourth, locking down on the defensive end. James blocked Josh Richardson on a midrange jumper and the latter thought he got fouled, picking up back-to-back technicals to get ejected.
Ingram knocked down a 3 to get his team back within 13 although James immediately responded with a three-point play to keep L.A. ahead comfortably. Dennis Schroder then got in on the action with a triple, extending the lead to 20 and effectively putting the game out of reach midway through the fourth.
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