Pelicans stage dramatic rally for crucial comeback win over Lakers
It was a game that carried huge significance.
After losing a key game Saturday to San Antonio, the New Orleans Pelicans knew the need to defeat the Los Angeles Lakers was magnified Sunday.
Apparently, the magnifying glass got to close to the Pelicans and they got burned, at least for a half
Make that incinerated.
Then, the firemen arrived and put out the fire with defense.
Then, the firemen lit their own fire, the Lakers could not put it out and the Pelicans rallied in dramatic fashion for a 116-108 victory before a big, frenzied crowd at Smoothie King Center.
Based on research, it is believed to be the first time the Pelicans won a game when trailing by 20+ points at the half.
It was truly a tale of two halves.
The Lakers came in and blew out the Pelicans in the first half, which was an offensive clinic for Los Angeles.
The Lakers took a 69-49 lead to the break after shooting 26-of-39 from the field to the tune of a sizzling 67 percent. That included 11-of-19 (58%) from three-point range.
Los Angeles had 19 assists on the 26 made shots.
The Lakers also dominated the boards by a 23-15 margin and won the turnover battle.
Then came the third quarter.
New Orleans exploded for 41 points, including 16 by rookie Trey Murphy to cut the deficit to 94-90.
Then came the fourth quarter.
LeBron James, who torched New Orleans for 35 points in the first three quarters got to know Herb Jones up close and personal in the fourth quarter.
With Jones primarily defending James closely, LeBron scored just four points in the final quarter and no one else could pick him up as the Pelicans clamped down on Los Angeles and held the Lakers to 14 points in the final quarter and pulled away in the final minute for the win.
The comeback matched the largest of the season, matching the comeback on Dec. 28 when the Pelicans trailed Cleveland by 23 points before rallying for a 108-104 win. The comeback is the second largest in franchise history.
The win was big in more ways than one.
First, the Pelicans moved a half game ahead of the Lakers for ninth in the Western Conference.
Second, New Orleans won the season series, giving the Pelicans the tiebreaker, if needed, for the postseason.
Third, as a result, the Pelicans are now in the nine seed.
Fourth, the Pelicans moved 1 ½ games ahead of San Antonio as well with seven games left to play in the season.
Getting Brandon Ingram back made a huge difference.
Ingram led the Pelicans with 26 points in 26 minutes and added seven rebounds and five assists.
Jonas Valanciunas was big with 19 points and 12 rebounds.
CJ McCollum had 18 points and six assists while Herb Jones had 16 points and was huge defensively with six steals.
Murphy was a large reason for the victory, finishing with 21 points in 25 minutes.
Now comes the tough part, a four-game road trip west, starting at Portland Wednesday night. Then comes a rematch with the Lakers in Los Angeles Friday and a holdover stay in LA against the Clippers Sunday. The trip ends with a game at Sacramento a week from Tuesday.
Two of the final three games are at home.
If the Pelicans reach the postseason, it will largely be because of a large, make that very large comeback against the Lakers, who always draw fans to Smoothie King Center.
For a half, those fans were gloating, laughing, dancing.
By game’s end, they were escaping the arena sheepishly, along with a former Pelican, who left the arena with a tune in his ear, likely from Looney Tunes.
That’s all, folks!
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…