March 23, 2018, 3:02 am
The Pelicans were playing their third game in three nights and fifth in six nights, yet they somehow found the energy to overcome an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter and earn a 128-125 victory over the Lakers on Thursday night. In the process, they became the first team since Seattle in 1979 to win three consecutive home games on three consecutive nights.
Even though they have had to overcome significant injury and difficult scheduling, the Pelicans have won four consecutive games and 15-of-19 games overall.
The Lakers are going in the other direction, having lost four games in a row and seemingly losing the positive momentum they had developed.
This game was high-scoring from the onset, with the Lakers leading 44-40 at the end of the first period. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was scorching the nets early on, going 5-of-5 from 3-point range and scoring the Lakers’ first nine points.
The two teams exchanged blows for the better part of the game before the Lakers closed the third quarter on an 18-7 run to go into the fourth with an 11-point lead — it was all downhill from there.
The Pelicans opened the fourth quarter on a 9-0 run to lead to cut the deficit to two points. The two teams stayed close to each other until the Lakers built a four-point lead at 125-121. The Lakers would go without scoring for the entire remaining 3:31 of the game to lose in particularly frustrating fashion.
One culprit was Lonzo Ball, who went 0-of-3 down the stretch, missing two particularly wide-open shots and failing to lead his team to single basket. Ball shot 2-of-15 from the field, 1-of-2 from the charity stripe and made only 1-of-12 from 3-point range. He contributed in typical Ball-fashion, adding 13 rebounds, nine assists and two blocks, but his inability to knock down shots lately has really hurt the Lakers. Ball is now 14-of-67 (20.9 percent) over his last seven games, bringing his shooting percentage for the year down to 36.1 percent. He needs to learn to attack the basket more when his shot isn’t falling in order to take his game to the next level and for the Lakers to succeed.
The rest of the Lakers’ starting lineup was excellent on Thursday, each one surpassing 20 points while shooting well from the floor. They were led by Caldwell-Pope, who had 28 points, four rebounds, two assists, a plus-12 rating and tied a career-high with eight 3-pointers. He was able to knock down 8-of-11 shots from long range, 9-of-15 from the field and 2-of-2 from the line.
Julius Randle continued his strong play with 23 points, 10 rebounds, two assists, one block and a plus-7 rating while shooting 9-of-16 from the field.
Brook Lopez eclipsed the 20-point mark for the sixth time in eight games on his way to 23 points and six rebounds while converting 9-of-12 from the floor and 4-of-5 from the charity stripe.
Kyle Kuzma tallied 22 points, five rebounds, two assists and one steal while making 5-of-11 from the field, 4-of-6 from deep and 8-of-9 from the free throw line.
The Lakers’ bench was outscored again, this time by a score of 30-23. Isaiah Thomas had another rough outing, chipping-in 15 points on 6-of-12 shooting, but struggled in every other facet of the game. His limited contributions were comprised of two assists, one rebound, a minus-7 rating and a whopping six turnovers — nearly matching the Pelicans’ entire team output of eight.
New Orleans had several key contributors, none more important than Rajon Rondo, who finished with 24 points, 10 assists, two rebounds, three steals and a plus-13 rating. Rondo had 12 points and four assists in the fourth quarter alone, as well as a pivotal 3-pointer to bring the Pelicans within one at 125-124 and the subsequent go-ahead layup. He got the best of Thomas in the battle of former Celtic All-Star point guards, a point of contention that led to a physical confrontation and both players’ ejections the last time the two teams met.
He was joined by Anthony Davis, who accumulated 33 points, nine rebounds, three steals, two blocks and a game-high plus-14 rating. Davis put the nail in the Lakers’ proverbial coffin by hitting two free throws to extend the Pelicans’ lead to three and stealing the ball on the Lakers’ final possession.
Los Angeles native Jrue Holiday scored an ultra-efficient 26 points on 12-of-16 shooting, adding six assists, three rebounds and one steal.,
Key Stats and Observations
-The Lakers’ inability to guard the paint reached new heights as they conceded 80 points to the Pelicans while scoring only 48 points themselves.
-Los Angeles continues to lose the turnover battle, accruing 16 miscues for 21 New Orleans points while forcing only eight turnovers which they converted to 12 points.
-Both teams had identical rebounding totals with 41 overall rebounds, seven offensive rebounds and 34 defensive rebounds.
-The Pelicans were able to tally 13 steals while the Lakers were only able to muster two steals on their end. This disparity contributed to a 30-22 fast break advantage for New Orleans.
-The Lakers knocked down 17-of-39 3-pointers (43.6 percent) vs. 6-of-24 (25.0 percent) 3-pointers for the Pelicans — the Lakers were unable to take advantage of the 33-point advantage.
The Lakers head to Memphis on Saturday night to take on the Grizzlies. Memphis is coming off a 140-79 loss to Charlotte and appears to have embraced full tank mode towards the end of a disastrous season.
Mike Conley Jr., the team’s starting point guard, has missed almost the entire season. Marc Gasol, their best player, is missing every other game as they preserve him for next year and work on improving their draft position. The team just recently snapped a 19-game losing streak and is no longer focused on winning this season.
This should be the perfect opportunity for the Lakers to snap out of their funk and four-game losing streak.