Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (6) goes to the basket against New Orleans Pelicans forward Herbert Jones (5) in the second half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Sunday, March 27, 2022. The Pelicans won 116-108. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

by Hunter Dawkins, Publisher

The first period seemed like an eternity in the Smoothie King Center as the visiting Los Angeles Lakers basketball team started on a 10-0 run and won the period 31-23.  Behind 25 points from future Hall of Famer and multiple National Basketball Association (NBA) MVP LeBron “The King” James, the city of angels took a 69-49 dominant lead at halftime.

Rallying from a 23-point deficit and holding the Lakers to 39 second half points, the New Orleans Pelicans (32-43) outperformed and outplayed Los Angeles to earn a 116-108 win and position themselves in ninth place for the Western Conference Playoffs.  “King” James only scored four points in the fourth quarter.

“We made a few adjustments at halftime and challenged our group to be more disciplined as we were all over the place. To  their credit, they came out and punched us in our mouth right away,” said New Orleans Pelicans Head Coach Willie Green.  “We hung in there and were resilient the whole game. The  goal was don’t try to get it all back at one time. We are down 20, but it’s just one stop then one score at a time. We are so  proud of that group in the locker room. That was growth.”

In the first half, the Lakers outshot the Pelicans, converting 26-of-39 (.667) from the field, 11-of-19 (.579) from behind the arc and 6-of-7 (.857) from the free throw line, while New Orleans only shot 22-of-49 (.449) from the floor, 3-of-12 (.250) from three-point range and 2-of-3 (.667) from the charity stripe.

Los Angeles started the game on a 12-0 run, that lasted 2:27 minutes of play. The Pelicans retaliated with a 9-3 run of heir own, which cut Lakers’ lead 13-9 with 6:15 remaining in the first frame.

In the third frame, the Pelicans outscored Los Angeles 41-25, which is the Pelicans fifth 40-point quarter of the season and their second 40-point quarter against the Lakers. New Orleans outscored the Lakers 67-39 in the second half. The Pelicans shot 6-of-15 (.400) from three-point distance and 17-of-21 (.810) free throw line, while Los Angeles converted only 3-of-16 (.188) from behind the arc and 4-of-9 (.444) from free throws.

“It’s just a microcosm of our season,” expressed James after the loss.  “We haven’t been able to sustain all year, and tonight was one of those instances once again.”

With the Lakers leading 78-59, New Orleans went on a 16-3 run, which cut Los Angeles’ lead to 81-75 with 4:35 left to play in the third quarter.  The Pelicans finished the game on a 14-5 run, which helped New Orleans overcome a 23-point deficit.

After missing the last 10 games due to injury, New Orleans Pelicans Forward Brandon Ingram posted a team-high 26 points, shooting 10-of-17 (.588) from the floor and 6-of-7 (.857) from the foul stripe.

Off the bench, Pelicans Guard Trey Murphy III posted 21 points and four rebounds. In the third quarter, he scored 16 points, shooting 5-of-6
(.833) from the floor and a perfect 3-of-3 from behind the arc and from the foul stripe.

New Orleans Center Jonas Valančiūnas notched 19 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, a steal and one block, while converting 7-of-13 (.538) from the floor.

James scored a game-high 39 points for the Lakers, shooting 14-of-27 (.519) from the floor, 7-of-13 (.538) from behind the arc and 4-of-6 (.667) from the free throw line. This marks the 30th time this season James has scored 30-plus points.

In the first half, James scored 25 points, converting 9-of-13 (.692) from the floor, including 6-of-9 (.667) from three-point range. He added five boards, three assists and a block in the first half.

The Pelicans lead the season series 2-0 over the Los Angeles Lakers. The two teams will meet one more time this season on April 1, 2022, in Los Angeles.  New Orleans plays three consecutive road games this week.

(Front Photo credit: New Orleans Pelicans guard Trey Murphy III (25) slam dunks over Los Angeles Lakers forward Wenyen Gabriel (35) and center Dwight Howard in the second half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Sunday, March 27, 2022. The Pelicans won 116-108. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)