Just a frustrating game for the Lakers and their fan base.
The Lakers seemed like they were cruising along after the first half. Then the Pelicans rose up from the dead and looked like the #3 seed from the West before they lost Zion. New Orleans held the Lakers down in the fourth and stopped their 10-game losing streak, 131-126.
It was looking like the game against the Knicks in the first half where neither team could break away. But then Dennis Schröder seems to be making a habit of making three-pointers before the break; his three caromed upward before falling into the net to make it a 72-61 halftime Laker lead. We did see Brandon Ingram score 16 points in the second quarter. More from him in a bit.
Anthony Davis was fantastic in the third quarter, scoring 14 points in that period. Ingram, however, countered with 11 of his own. And this was probably the turning point: CJ McCollum made a floater (his first basket after his 14-point first period) to cut the deficit to 106-100 with 5.2 ticks left. But then Wenyen Gabriel threw an errant pass that went to Jose Alvarado. He converted a huge three-pointer and it was suddenly 106-103 entering the fourth.
Trey Murphy III made back-to-back threes to give the Pelicans a 6-point cushion. The Lakers were able to tie the game at 118 halfway through the fourth. But then they went in a drought at the worst possible time. Ingram and CJ McCollum took over the game while New Orleans held the Lakers with no field goals for the next four minutes. In fact, the field goal made by Patrick Beverley looked more like a bad lob. Ingram then countered with a midrange J to put the Pelicans up, 129-123. The Lakers had one last glimmer of hope when LeBron made a lay-up (their second field goal in the latter half of the fourth quarter) to cut it to 131-126. They were able to trap and steal the ball a few seconds later but Schröder threw a wild pass (intended for a wide open Davis inside), which was easily stolen. The Pelicans snapped their 10-game losing streak.
The Lakers looked ragged in the second half. The first half, even when it was more of a shootout, was great for L.A. They only turned the ball over twice. 9 wasn’t bad for the game overall but they happened at crucial times (inbounds pass by Gabriel at the end of the third). And we see the Anthony Davis disappearing act again as he only scored two points in the fourth. While fans complain about this quite a bit, even they seemed to be shocked that Russell Westbrook didn’t play much in the fourth quarter. Especially since Brandon Ingram was torching the Lakers after the first.
But only converting two field goals in the last 6 minutes of the fourth won’t get the job done. They only scored 20 points in the last period overall. Davis did have five field goal attempts (making one) but three of them were missed putbacks. The Lakers did score 40 in the second quarter but the Pelicans erased that with 42 in the third.
New Orleans really stepped it up (I mean, they should, considering they had lost 10 in a row). Brandon Ingram put in 35 (again, all after the first quarter). CJ McCollum scored 14 of his 23 in the first quarter. Trey Murphy III made some big three-pointers on his way to 21 points. Jonas Valanciunas left before the fourth with a knee injury but he still had 18 points and 14 boards. Jose Alvarado wreaked havoc with 18 of his own.
Anthony Davis scored 34 points (but only two in the fourth) and grabbed 14 rebounds. LeBron James went for 27-9-6. Russell Westbrook scored 15 points but, again, it was surprising he didn’t play much in the fourth.
The Lakers are now 25-29 and there are no ifs and buts about this; they deserve to be where they’re at. People can make all these excuses but there’s not much you can say when they’re not winning. They’ve blown so many opportunities. The Lakers had a chance to leapfrog a cold Pelican team and they fell apart in the fourth.
L.A. goes home and against the Thunder on Tuesday. And as for the chase for Kareem, LeBron James is 36 points away for taking the top spot as the NBA all-time scoring leader. He could do it there or he could do it on Thursday against the Bucks.
Either way, the Lakers have to find some consistency as we go into the All-Star break.