Pelicans take down Lakers for crucial win in playoff chase
The Los Angeles Lakers were desperate.
LeBron James returned after missing just two games with a sprained ankle. Normally, such injuries keep a player out longer in the NBA.
Anthony Davis returned for the first time since mid-February from his sprained foot.
You think he wanted to play against the guys with New Orleans on their jerseys?
Throughout, the Lakers played frenetically, guarding like the NBA finals in very aggressive fashion while James was absolutely dominant, unstoppable for three quarters, scoring 36 points.
That included an amazing 21-point third quarter.
Maybe that effort and the minutes played took too much out of him.
Then came the fourth quarter.
James was held to just two points.
The Pelicans caught the Lakers, passed them and beat them.
James air-balled a 3-pointer at the buzzer with Herb Jones and Larry Nance Jr. shadowing him and jumping at him and all around him.
It was a beautiful sight if you are a Pelicans fan.
It was an intense, playoff atmosphere throughout with both teams competing incredibly hard.
It was very physical, with the Pelicans whistled for a pair of hard, flagrant 1 fouls.
Who is the better team?
Who has the better roster?
The Lakers have James, Davis, Dwight Howard, Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony, the latter of whom did not play Friday night.
All have been or remain (James) elite players in the league.
All could receive national Hall of Fame recognition eventually.
The Pelicans have been without Ingram for 24 games.
McCollum has played just 21 games in New Orleans.
Incidentally, he now has eight games of 30 points or more with the Pelicans, playing his best basketball of the season.
Zion Williamson has not played a game.
New Orleans swept the three-game series with the Lakers.
Perhaps that answers the question.
The Pelicans outlasted the Lakers 114-111 at Los Angeles Friday night for their biggest win of the season.
In a game that was back and forth throughout, neither team led by more than six points.
In the end, the Pelicans came through big-time when it mattered most, closing the game on a 9-3 run to pull out the big win.
CJ McCollum pumped in 32 points, including 18 in the first half and pulled down seven rebounds while Brandon Ingram scored 29 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, including 23 points in the second half as he once again tortured his former team.
Jonas Valanciunas recorded his 50th double-double of the season with 17 points and 12 rebounds and Valanciunas may have hit the biggest shot of the game when he nailed a 3-pointer from the top of the circle to tie the game at 108-108 with 2:52 remaining. Herb Jones added 12 points and had the unenviable task of trying to guard James all night.
Ingram put the Pelicans ahead to stay 110-108 with a jumper with 2:29 left in the game.
Valanciunas then made a pair of free throws with 1:57 to play in the game to make it 112-108.
Avery Bradley gave the Lakers a chance, nailing a 3-pointer from the left corner to cut the deficit to 112-111 with 15.8 seconds left.
McCollum then calmly sank a pair of free throws with 9.4 seconds left, setting the stage for James’ final shot.
The Pelicans shot 52 percent from the field and needed it.
Perhaps more importantly, New Orleans was outstanding from the free throw line, sinking 25 of 29 attempts.
Davis had been out for six weeks, since February 16 with a foot injury.
He somehow found it in his being to play in this game and he was effective with 23 points, 12 rebounds and six assists. Davis has missed more games (39) than he has played (37) this season.
In his absence, the Lakers were a miserable 4-14.
James found it in his person to return from an ankle sprain, suffered in a 116-108 loss at New Orleans last Sunday, after missing two games (both losses).
That is how big this game was for the Lakers.
The raw emotions were on full display in this one.
Westbrook made two straight 3-pointers in the second half and proceeded to talk trash to the Pelicans.
Davis, who left New Orleans in miserable, unprofessional fashion, is a lightning rod for the New Orleans franchise and team. Davis was seen mouthing off to a fan during the game, displaying dissatisfaction, displaying rabbit ears. The fan was removed from his seat by security.
In the morning shoot-around at Crypto.com Arena, the Pelicans had to practice with the lights out. There was no power outage. Draw your own conclusions.
Willie Green, who is calm, collected and composed, showed perhaps the most emotion he has shown all season when the final horn sounded and the Pelicans had a huge win.
Green admitted afterwards that the lights being out definitely served as motivation for he and his team.
The end result is that the Pelicans now lead the Lakers by three games with five left to play and the Pelicans own the tiebreaker over the Lakers.
New Orleans leads San Antonio by two games for the ninth spot in the West.
The Spurs have won six of their last eight games and are now a game ahead of the Lakers for the final play-in spot in the Western Conference after the Spurs whipped Portland 130-111.
The Pelicans remain in Los Angeles and will take on the Clippers Sunday night.
I wonder if the lights will be on for the Pels at shoot-around Sunday morning.
The only power outage in downtown Los Angeles was the energy of the Lakers shorting out Friday night.
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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…