LOS ANGELES (AP)CJ McCollum scored 32 points, Brandon Ingram added 29 against his former team and the New Orleans Pelicans spoiled Anthony Davis’ return from injury with another fourth-quarter rally in a 114-111 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night.
Jonas Valanciunas had 17 points and 12 rebounds for the ninth-place Pelicans, who won for the sixth time in eight games while dealing the second major blow in five days to the Lakers’ hopes of squeaking into the play-in tournament.
New Orleans beat Los Angeles 116-108 at home last weekend after rallying from a 23-point deficit, and the Pelicans swept the season series with this comeback on the road.
”It was big-time,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said. ”They threw the kitchen sink at us. LeBron (scored) 38 points. Getting Davis back sparked their team a little bit. We just hung in there, and the game was back and forth. We have to win games like that. Been talking about it all season, and it will pay dividends down the stretch.”
LeBron James missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer and scored just two of his 38 in the fourth quarter for the Lakers (31-46), who have lost five straight and 15 of 19 to fall one game behind 10th-place San Antonio (32-45), which holds the tiebreaker.
”The big picture is that it was pretty much a must-win for us, and we didn’t get the job done,” James said.
Davis had 23 points, 12 rebounds and six assists in his return from a six-week injury absence since Feb. 16, but the eight-time All-Star’s presence wasn’t enough to beat his former team. The Lakers now face long odds just to get past the Spurs for a one-game shot at the Pelicans, since four of LA’s final five games are against playoff-bound opponents.
”It’s going to be tough to catch (New Orleans) now, with the lead they have and the tiebreaker,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. ”But we have plenty of time to win as many games as we can down the stretch and see what happens with San Antonio.”
New Orleans trailed for most of the fourth quarter, but Valanciunas hit a tying 3-pointer with 2:52 to play. After Davis missed a floater, Ingram put the Pelicans ahead 110-108 on a fadeaway jumper.
”We had some poise late in that game,” Ingram said. ”Down the stretch, we had some good execution. Everybody was locked in on the defensive end, and we seemed confident.”
Avery Bradley’s 3-pointer with 15.8 seconds left trimmed New Orleans’ lead to 112-111. McCollum hit two free throws, and James’ triple-clutch 3-point attempt amid double coverage didn’t go in at the horn.
”It was a tough environment with AD coming back, and we just fought,” said Herbert Jones, who harassed James along with Larry Nance Jr. on the last play. ”Once LeBron came across the court and I got screened, I knew Larry was over there. I just wanted to be there as well. Just force him to shoot it. I feel like we did a great job of making it tough on him to make the shot.”
Davis missed the previous 18 games with a sprained foot during his second lengthy injury absence of the year. Davis had been hurt for 39 games and healthy for 37 this season, his second straight with major injury problems.
Los Angeles went 4-14 in Davis’ most recent absence, its disappointing season turning into a potentially humiliating one. James also missed three of the previous four games with a swollen ankle, but he elected to play through the pain Friday with Davis’ return.
That meant Davis, James and Russell Westbrook played together for only the 21st time in the Lakers’ 77 games this season – and just the sixth time since Dec. 17. Injuries have been the leading – but hardly the only – factor in Los Angeles’ descent from a likely championship contender to a borderline playoff team.
Pelicans: Green said his team also was motivated when the lights weren’t turned on for their morning shootaround, forcing them to work out in the dark. … Jaxson Hayes dunked with 36 seconds left in the first half, but the points were taken off the board following video review after the halftime buzzer because Hayes didn’t beat the shot clock.
Lakers: Davis crossed the court to say something to a fan in the second row early in the fourth quarter after New Orleans called a timeout when LA took a six-point lead. The fan, who wore a Kobe jersey, was escorted away from his seat by security. … Carmelo Anthony was unavailable due to a non-COVID illness.
OH YEAH REAL FUNNY
James got into the spirit of the holiday Thursday morning with a straight-faced tweet: ”I’m out for the season officially. See y’all in the fall.”
James and the Lakers didn’t acknowledge the joke, but at least James apparently warned Vogel when he sent out the tweet. The coach declined to say whether he thought it was funny.
”I would have guessed it was an April Fool’s even if I hadn’t known it was an April Fool’s,” Vogel said.
Pelicans: At Clippers on Sunday.
Lakers: Host Nuggets on Sunday.
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