Although a strong argument could be made that the final result would have been closer were it not for a 28-7 disparity from the free throw line, the New Orleans Pelicans were bested by a better team on Friday night.
The Pelicans made things somewhat interesting in the fourth quarter, cutting what was once a 24-point lead to just eight with 5:20 remaining; however, the Los Angeles Lakers prevailed 123-113 as Anthony Davis was just too damn perfect, totaling 46 points, 12 rebounds, three steals and three three-pointers. He made 15-21 field goals and nailed all 13 of his free throw attempts.
“We’re familiar with him,” said an obviously displeased head coach Alvin Gentry to postgame media. “He’s a tough matchup. They got him off to a good start. He even made three-point shots.”
Throughout the first half, the Lakers found the weak links in the defense to race out to a quick 39-21 lead less than 10 minutes in. LeBron James was able to bully past a smaller Jrue Holiday, New Orleans had no answer for Anthony Davis and the Pelicans were all too often burned on simple pick and rolls. JJ Redick, in particular, was a favorite target. Danny Green, JJ’s typical assignment, would set a screen and voila, an instant mismatch was created somewhere on the floor in which the Lakers took full advantage.
Los Angeles cooked to a tune of a 56.5 FG%, 66.7 3PT% and an 82.4 FT% in the first 24 minutes of the game. Davis scored 21 point of the Lakers 74 halftime points, but the real killer was Danny Green who nearly matching him with 20 points. Green knocked down 5 of 6 threes and most were of the wide open variety.
The Lakers smartly but all too easily were able to play inside out. When the Pelicans defense would collapse around a Laker in or near the paint, the New Orleans defense was unable to recover out quickly enough to shooters.
Fortunately for the Pelicans, not all was lost as they weathered that initial burst by the Lakers. Lonzo Ball was the hot man early, scoring 11 first half points. He knocked down a couple of three-pointers right out of the gates, and then later surprised the Lakers with a dunk in transition and his smoothest floater of the year for a bucket. Brandon Ingram made his mark in the second quarter, scoring 8 of his 12 first half points.
Although the Pelicans scored the first five points of the third quarter to reduce the deficit to just seven, the Lakers got back on track and resumed to pick apart New Orleans defense. By the time the frame had ended, Davis was already sitting on 40 points.
From @ESPNStatsInfo: Anthony Davis is the only player with 40 points and 10 rebounds through the first 3 quarters this season.— Andrew Lopez (@_Andrew_Lopez) January 4, 2020
This is the second time he's done so this season.
The Pelicans made several runs in the game when at least one of LeBron James or Davis were off the court, and that included one in the fourth quarter that reduced the deficit to single digits. However, New Orleans failed to get that timely bucket, defensive stop or referee whistle in order to get over the hump.
The source of the aforementioned displeasure by Gentry?
“We had 68 points in the paint and we shot seven free throws.”
Yeah, that’ll do it, especially when the Lakers enjoy 28 attempts from the stripe, possess an almighty duo in LeBron and Davis, and shot the ball ridiculously well from three point range (48.3% 3PT%).
Lonzo Ball led the Pelicans with 23 points and also added five assists and two steals, but the best part was watching him be assertive and consistently attack the paint. He found a lot of success! I think I counted among his made field goals at least three floaters, a couple of hard dunks and a fadeaway jumper.
“Well, I think the key thing there is the aggressiveness you’re talking about,” said Gentry about Ball’s performance. “I think he’s been really aggressive. I think he’s done a great job on makes and misses of getting the ball and pushing it, trying to create some early offense. He’s been really good at that.”
For the first time in his career, Lonzo Ball has back-to-back games of 20+ points, and he went on to credit his health once more over the past week.
“Like I said, I’m getting healthier,” said Ball to Jen Hale of Fox Sports New Orleans. “My body feels good. My confidence is where it’s supposed to be and the sky is the limit from there.”
Brandon Ingram finished with 22 points, but it took him 27 shots to get there. Derrick Favors, who was the only starter to finish with a positive +/-, had a double-double of 15 points and 14 rebounds. E’Twaun Moore’s solid play off the bench continued as he posted a line of 16 points, three rebounds and two assists.
The Pelicans have a quick turnaround as they’ll travel to Sacramento tonight and then face the Kings tomorrow for a 9:00 p.m. Central tip-off.