The Los Angeles Lakers welcomed LeBron James and Anthony Davis back hoping to keep their season alive, but instead lost to the New Orleans Pelicans, 114-111.
With the loss, the Lakers now fall even further behind the Pelicans and San Antonio Spurs in the standings, putting their Play-In Tournament hopes in jeopardy.
Davis made his long-awaited return and wasted no time getting involved, scoring the Lakers’ first basket off a midrange jumper and finding Dwight Howard cutting for a dunk. L.A.’s frontcourt size and length made it difficult for New Orleans to score in the paint, though four turnovers prevented them from taking much advantage.
James began to assert himself offensively by getting his jumper going and the rest of the Lakers’ outside shooting picked up to give them a 25-24 lead. However, CJ McCollum ended up catching fire from beyond the arc by nailing four triples in the quarter, putting Los Angeles down 30-25 after the first.
James and Stanley Johnson were able to draw free throws to begin the second, trimming the Pelicans’ lead down to three. Both teams cooled off considerably offensively, but turnovers continued to haunt Los Angeles each time they had a chance to retake the lead.
Despite the lack of scoring opportunities, Davis was able to tie the game 42-42 after getting all to the rim. Malik Monk was able to glide down the floor for an uncontested dunk, and he later found Avery Bradley underneath for a layup. McCollum beat the second-quarter buzzer with a little floater, sending his team into the locker room with the game tied at 50.
James looked to be more aggressive at the top of the third, driving hard against Herb Jones for and-one and following it up with a wide-open 3-pointer. James drew a flagrant foul from Brandon Ingram which ignited a run that put Los Angeles back on top.
The two teams began to trade baskets to keep things close, but Davis managed to hit a tough corner three to give L.A. some breathing room. The Lakers took advantage of being in the bonus by earning several trips to the line, allowing them to take a slim 87-86 lead into the fourth.
Russell Westbrook got in on the 3-point shooting fun, knocking down a pair to give the Lakers a 96-90 lead. James re-entered the contest and picked up where he left off scoring, but the Pelicans did not go away as Ingram kept them in it.
Offensive rhythm was hard to come by with each team drawing free throws, though L.A. managed to stay ahead throughout. New Orleans went on a 13-4 run to retake the lead, though James managed to find Avery Bradley for a corner three to make it a one-point game. After McCollum knocked down a pair of free throws, James missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer and the Lakers had to endure another brutal loss.
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