The Los Angeles Lakers lost to Anthony Davis’ former team, the New Orleans Pelicans, 131-126. Despite the obvious tension in the air with the Lakers once again mixed up in trade rumors, L.A. actually played a good game until late in the third, when the Pelicans went on a run and took control of things as Brandon Ingram scored over the Lakers’ tiny guards like they were folding chairs and the purple and gold collapsed in one of their worst losses of the season.
Just one game behind the Pelicans in the standings, the Lakers needed this win to move up in the Western Conference. Instead, they fall to 25-29 on the season and are now two games back from New Orleans in their race for a play-in spot.
The Pelicans got a great game from Jonas Valanciunas. He was able to control the boards and get many putback baskets before leaving in the third with an injury, with AD helping so much on defense leaving Jonas unattended as a result. Ingram was at an All-Star level for one of the few times since his own return, as his mid-range game was impeccable, scoring easily to end the night with 35 points total.
In the first half, the Lakers were able to take control early thanks to the chemistry of Anthony Davis and Dennis Schröder. Since Dennis’ first stint with the Lakers, the lack of synergy between the two has been evident. Tonight, Dennis kept finding AD off pick and rolls, side ball screens and even cutting to the basket. The result was the Lakers dominating the Pelicans in the second quarter with AD ending the half with 18 points and Dennis having 7 dimes.
72 points by the Lakers in the first half. They have an 11-point lead over the Pelicans thanks to a 17-8 edge in fast break points, 6 fewer turnovers, and a 2-of-13 performance from 3 by NOLA— Michael Corvo (@michaelcorvoNBA) February 5, 2023
Add in Russell Westbrook playing efficient basketball — he finished with 15 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists — and the Lakers up by double digits, and everything was pointing towards a comfortable Lakers win on the road.
The third quarter, unfortunately, was 12 minutes of runs. The Pelicans kicked it off with a mid-quarter run, bringing the deficit down to as little as three. Then the Lakers regained comfort with Westbrook getting three consecutive assists and scoring a layup to put the lead back up to 8. Unfortunately for L.A., CJ McCullum hit a runner and careless Laker inbounds pass led to a Jose Alvarado three and New Orleans was only down by three heading into the fourth.
With 9:05 left, Trey Murphy III hit back-to-back threes and gave the Pelicans a six-point lead, their biggest of the night. But the Lakers battled back and, with a three from Troy Brown Jr., evened the score.
From there, the rest of the quarter was a heavyweight fight where each team exchanged blows with one another. New Orleans finally sealed the game for good when Ingram hit a mid-range jumper to give the Pelicans a six-point advantage with under a minute to go. The rest of the game was an exchange of free throws but L.A. never closed the gap.
With a 25-29 record, you might think the Lakers are inconsistent, but one thing they clearly are consistent on is making every game as stressful as possible. Up by eleven, the Lakers couldn’t win the non-LeBron minutes at the end of the third, giving the Pelicans life.
As the season moves on, playing games like this will not be sustainable. They have to put teams away and not play every game as if it’s a playoff atmosphere. Doing so is far too taxing on the mind and body and being that we are in the dog days of the season, easy wins are needed.
The purple and gold will get a chance at an easy win on Tuesday as they play the Thunder at home. Will LeBron break Kareem’s record? Will the roster look the same? All we know for sure is that no matter what happens, there is never a dull moment in L.A.