LeBron leads Lakers past Zion, Pelicans
When the transcendent player in the league plays like it, you are in big trouble.
The Los Angeles Lakers are 18-0 when LeBron James scores 30 points.
He did a lot more than that Tuesday night at Staples Center. It was too much, make that way too much for the visiting New Orleans Pelicans to overcome.
James scored a season high 40 points, had eight rebounds and dished out six assists as the Lakers beat New Orleans 118-109.
All season long, the Pelicans have been superb off the bench. That was not the case in this one.
New Orleans reserves scored just 17 points, including 11 by Nico Melli.
Meanwhile, Lakers reserves scored 37 points.
The other huge factor was 14 offensive rebounds by the Lakers, who won the battle of the boards 51-45 with their superior length.
While each team’s two stars scored as expected, the game was decided by role players.
Los Angeles got brilliant performances from Danny Green, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Sam Caruso. Green had 17 points, Caldwell-Pope 15 and Caruso had seven points and eight assists.
Aside from the lack of bench production, what hurt New Orleans most was the play of Jrue Holiday.
The anointed team leader had a miserable night, scoring 11 points on just 5-of-19 shooting. He did have nine assists but the Pelicans need more from Holiday if they want to have a shot to beat the best teams in the league.
Of course, Holiday had to expend a ton of energy trying to guard LeBron much of the night.
Anthony Davis opened up playing Williamson on the defensive end while Zion guarded Davis quite a bit.
Los Angeles went on a 9-0 run to take a 12-2 lead.
At one point, New Orleans missed eight straight shots.
Then, the Pelicans went on an 8-0 run to cut the deficit to 17-12.
The Lakers had a huge 17-10 advantage on the boards, including a whopping 7-0 on the offensive glass. Still, the Pelicans trailed only 30-26 after one quarter, largely thanks to 12 points and three rebounds from Brandon Ingram.
Zion gave the Pelicans their first lead at 37-36 at the 8:48 mark of the second quarter on a transition layup but the Lakers reclaimed the advantage with a 7-0 run to take a 45-39 lead with 6:52 to play in the half and Los Angeles maintained that advantage to lead 64-58 by the break.
Brandon Ingram had 18 points while Williamson had 17 in the half, including 13 in the second quarter. Melli had eight off the bench.
James had 15 points while Davis scored 14 for the Lakers, who blistered the Pelicans 10-1 on the offensive boards. Caldwell-Pope was the third cog, scoring 11 off the bench.
The Lakers built a 14-point lead in the third quarter but New Orleans went on a 25-8 run to take a 3-point lead before the Lakers closed the quarter on a 5-0 run to take an 88-86 lead going to the final quarter. The Pelicans did much of the damage with James resting. When he returned, things changed.
Unfortunately for the Pelicans, James was on the floor too much in the fourth quarter and he and his teams were too much for the young Pelicans.
Ingram finished with 34 points, seven rebounds and four assists while Williamson had 29 points, six rebounds and three assists. It was the first game in which both Williamson and Ingram scored at least 25 points.
Davis, who combined for 87 points and 23 rebounds in the first two Laker wins over the Pelicans, shot just 6-of-21 from the field for 21 points. He did pull down 14 rebounds with six blocks.
This was nothing to be ashamed of.
The Pelicans played hard, overcame a terrible start, and had a chance in the fourth quarter against one of the two best teams in the league, on the road.
It was a good road trip, winning two of three games. Portland lost at home to Boston so the Blazers are still a half game ahead of New Orleans while Memphis is 3.5 games ahead of the Pelicans in the Western Conference.
New Orleans gets a break before returning home to open a 3-game homestand against Cleveland Friday night. Of course, the Lakers are the second game before Minnesota comes calling. The Cavs and T-Wolves are truly awful. The Pelicans must continue to win the games they are supposed to win.
Zion was just three when LeBron played his first game in the NBA. While LeBron shows no sign of being anywhere near done, he is in the final phase of his brilliant career while Williamson is at the start of his. There is much to like.
James is still the king and he played like it Tuesday night. That crown will have to wait for Williamson. James was unquestionably aware of and motivated by the national television stage and facing the young Pelicans phenom. He seized the night.
The Pelicans are still on track to make the playoffs. That is what matters.
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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…