Lakers defeat Pelicans in Play-In game, now get Nuggets rematch

Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports
The Lakers defeated the New Orleans Pelicans and will now start their playoff run against the Denver Nuggets on Saturday night.

NEW ORLEANS — The Los Angeles Lakers are officially back in the postseason.

Lakers stayed in New Orleans after they beat the Pelicans on Sunday as they were matched up for the 7-8 seed Play-In game. After a double-digit lead, Los Angeles held off a plucky New Orleans team and won, 110-106.

It was a decidedly much different game than Sunday when the Lakers blew the Pelicans out. Zion Williamson dominated the paint and had 40 points in the game but left the game after scoring his last basket with 3:19 left on the clock. He would not return to the contest.

The Lakers had another sterling second quarter that saw them have a 34-16 advantage. And then Los Angeles built an 18-point lead in the third period. The Pelicans would rally back that saw them tie the game multiple times. But New Orleans couldn’t get over the hump. With the Lakers clinging to a 101-100 lead, D’Angelo Russell would make a clutch three with 51 ticks left. The Pelicans would play the foul game the rest of the way to no avail. Los Angeles secured the 7th seed and get the defending champion Nuggets in the first round.

L.A. has the best record at 24-9 when it comes to clutch situations, which defines as the last five minutes of the game in which the point differential is five points or less. So they know what to do in sticky situations like these. But the Pelicans were very unfortunate to not have Williamson at the end.

While the Pelicans dominated in the paint (62-36) and rebounding (50-41), the Lakers had the edge in three-point shooting (+15 points) and free throws made (+15). The big lead built by Los Angeles certainly helped as New Orleans had to play uphill the rest of the game.

LeBron James led a balanced attack with 23 points, 9 rebounds, and 9 assists. D’Angelo Russell was huge with his three-point shooting; he made five on his way to 21 points. Anthony Davis didn’t shoot well but was a monster defensively. He had 20 points, 15 rebounds, and three blocks. As mentioned earlier, Zion Williamson had 40 points. He also had 11 rebounds and five assists. CJ McCollum notably was limited to 9 points on 4 for 15 shooting.

The Lakers will face Denver Nuggets starting on Saturday in a rematch of the Western Conference Finals. The quest for #18 will start out on a most difficult note.