A double-digit halftime lead was not enough for the Lakers in New Orleans Saturday night as they fell Pelicans 131-126. The loss dropped the Lakers to 2-3 on their road trip and back to 25-29 overall, with this loss also keeping the Pelicans above them in the standings in the race towards the post season.
Through the first 24 minutes, the Lakers established themselves as the superior team, scoring with relative consistency to the tune of 72 first half points. They shot 55.1% from the floor overall, including hitting 40% (6-15) of their attempts from behind the arc while also being the more physical team when attacking by getting to the foul line 16 times (making 12).
Anthony Davis was particularly impactful, putting up 18 of his team high 34 points in the 1st half while going 8-12 from the field. Davis did most of his damage around the basket, working in the pick-and-roll and flashing good chemistry with Dennis Schröder (7 of his 10 assists in the 1st half) who he connected with on lobs and dump off passes for easy finishes inside.
Russell Westbrook also had a strong first half, knocking down five of his seven shots from the field (including both his three-pointers) for 12 points. Russ did well to take what the defense gave him, not only in taking (and making) his jumper, but getting into the cracks of the defense to finish at the rim — both on his own drives and when getting on the offensive glass for second chance points.
While the Lakers were strong offensively, their defense had some challenges against the Pelicans’ perimeter duo of CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram. In the first quarter, it was McCollum who did his damage, scoring 14 of his 23 points for the game on perfect shooting (4-4 from the field and 5-5 from the foul line) against the Lakers’ drop coverage.
Then, the 2nd quarter, after going scoreless in the first period, it was Ingram who got going, hitting seven of his nine shots enroute to 16 points. Like McCollum, Ingram got going from the midrange, getting to his jumper against smaller Lakers defenders in isolation and then in space coming off picks as the defense sagged back.
With the Pelicans able to stay somewhat connected, the 3rd quarter would become critical in determining if the Lakers would put their opponent away or if the Pelicans would continue to scrap and get all the way back into it. And, unfortunately for the Lakers, it was the latter as their woes coming out of halftime reared its ugly head again.
While their offense was able to put up points, their defense was not able to slow the Pelicans at all as they poured in 42 points in the quarter to seize momentum of the game. Brandon Ingram continued his hot shooting, but he was joined by Trey Murphy from the outside and Jonas Valanciunas in the paint to put the Lakers on their heels and get the crowd into the game as they surged back into it.
They would close the quarter with one of the bigger sequences of the game, when McCollum got into the lane for a runner with under five seconds left, which was then followed up with a stolen inbounds pass that immediately led to a Jose Alvarado three-pointer that cut their deficit to only three.
With momentum on their side, the Pelicans then used the 4th quarter to wear down a Lakers team that looked like a group playing the final game of their road trip. New Orleans, riding the energy of their crowd, scrambled defensively and was quicker to every loose ball to slow down the Lakers on one side and then get to their spots offensively on the other side.
And, at the end, the Lakers simply did not have enough in the tank to recover. LeBron and AD tried to give the Lakers a chance by playing the entire 4th quarter, but the Pelicans had more juice in their legs, and it led to key offensive rebounds and baskets that the Lakers couldn’t make up on the other end.
The Lakers will now travel home, get a couple of days off, and will look to get back on track when the Thunder visit on Tuesday.