May 21, 2024

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LeBron leads Lakers past Pelicans, sets playoff rematch with Denver Nuggets

4 min read
PLAYOFF-BOUND. The Los Angeles Lakers overcome the New Orleans Pelicans, 110-106, on April 16 (April 17, Philippine time) to secure a playoff rematch against the Denver Nuggets. LOS ANGELES LAKERS PHOTO

LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers battled their way past the New Orleans Pelicans in a tense play-in matchup, securing their spot in the playoffs with a 110-106 victory on Tuesday night, April 16 (April 17, Philippine time). 

The game was marked by a standout performance from both teams, culminating in a dramatic fourth quarter that saw the Lakers emerge victorious.

The Lakers, led by James and Anthony Davis, showed their playoff pedigree with a determined display. James orchestrated the offense with precision, finishing the game just shy of a triple-double with 23 points, nine assists, and nine rebounds. 

Davis, a force on both ends of the floor, contributed 20 points and 15 rebounds. Together, they demonstrated the experience and composure needed in crucial moments.

However, the Pelicans were not to be underestimated, especially with Zion Williamson leading the charge. Williamson, making his postseason debut, was dominant with 40 points and 11 rebounds before exiting the game due to a troubling injury. His departure shifted the momentum of the game, allowing the Lakers to capitalize down the stretch.

The turning point came in the fourth quarter when Williamson tied the game at 95 with a driving layup, only to leave the court soon after with left leg soreness. The Lakers seized the opportunity, with James sinking a crucial jumper and Davis slamming home an alley-oop from Austin Reaves. DeAngelo Russell added a critical three-pointer, while Davis sealed the victory with timely free throws.

Despite Williamson’s heroics, the Pelicans struggled to find consistent scoring beyond their star forward. Brandon Ingram, returning from injury, had an off-night with 11 points. CJ McCollum also struggled, shooting 4-of-15 from the field. Trey Murphy III provided a spark off the bench with 12 points, including two deep three-pointers, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the Lakers’ collective effort.

The Lakers’ perimeter shooting proved instrumental, with Russell knocking down five threes and the team connecting on 14 overall. This outside threat complemented James and Davis’s inside presence, stretching the Pelicans’ defense and opening up opportunities.

With this victory, the Lakers set up a tantalizing first-round matchup against the Denver Nuggets, a rematch of last season’s Western Conference finals. The Nuggets, led by MVP candidate Nikola Jokic, swept the Lakers in that series, providing added motivation for James and his team to seek redemption.

For the Pelicans, the loss means they must regroup quickly for a crucial matchup against the Sacramento Kings to determine the final playoff seed. Coach Willie Green expressed disappointment but praised Williamson’s performance and urged his team to refocus for the upcoming challenge.

As the Lakers celebrate their play-in triumph, they know the real test awaits in the playoffs. With their stars firing on all cylinders and a renewed sense of purpose, they look to carry this momentum into a high-stakes showdown with the Nuggets, aiming to rewrite last season’s playoff narrative and make a deeper run this time around.

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