(Ty Nowell/Los Angeles Lakers)
LeBron's Triple-Double, Zubac's Breakout Lead Lakers Past Pelicans
The world’s greatest player headlined the night as expected. But it was a seldom-used reserve who stole the show.
LeBron James put his passing talents on display with his third triple-double of the year, while Ivica Zubac put up 16 points and 11 rebounds — both season-highs — to guide the Lakers past New Orleans, 112-104.
“Zu got the game ball tonight for sure,” James said. “His impact both offensively and defensively was huge for us tonight.”
Zubac — who played in only 11 of the Lakers’ first 31 games — got his first start (replacing an ill JaVale McGee) in two years in order to combat New Orleans’ monster frontcourt of Anthony Davis and Julius Randle.
The 21-year-old didn’t waste a moment, scoring half of his points in the opening quarter. He did more than hold his own offensively, shooting 8-of-10 while mixing in some post-ups, pick-and-rolls and cuts.
But his most spectacular moments came on defense. With less than four minutes left, “Zublocka” broke up an alley-oop intended for Davis, who rarely slowed down on a 30-point, 20-rebound night.
Then, in the final minute, he sized up Randle and swatted his former teammate to ice the game.
“He’s been bullying me in practice since I got in the league,” Zubac laughed, “so it felt good to block it.”
Zubac found a nice two-man game with LeBron, who piled up 22 points, 14 assists and 12 rebounds — despite having his availability for the game initially in question due to illness.
“I’m feeling the effects of it now,” James said. “My energy’s really low right now. I guess being back on our home floor and being back with my teammates gave me enough energy throughout the game to be able to make enough plays to win.”
Per usual, James was key to the Lakers (19-13) closing out the night.
New Orleans (15-18) had cut L.A.’s lead to three with seven minutes left when James posted up point guard Jrue Holiday, drawing the defense’s attention before kicking out to Kyle Kuzma, who hit a 3-pointer en route to a team-high 23 points.
Lonzo Ball (12 points) then hit a triple of his own before James went back to posting up Holiday, this time splashing a turnaround jumper for an 11-point lead that the Lakers would never surrender.
LeBron James broke out his post game in the fourth quarter for three big buckets: two fadeaways and a kick-out to Kuz for 3. pic.twitter.com/YrIExrT0xi— Joey Ramirez (@JoeyARamirez) December 22, 2018
“When you play this team right here, the bottom line is that LeBron is going to control the whole game down the stretch,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. “He has done it his whole career, and he is the best in the business at it.
“And that’s not necessarily scoring. He just makes the right play every single time. He finds the right guy, he manipulates switches, he does it all.”
While James handled the majority of the offense, the Lakers’ entire team stepped up defensively.
They allowed New Orleans to score 65 points on 51.8 percent shooting in the first half, but held it to just 43 points on 32.6 percent in the second.
Brandon Ingram — who missed the previous seven games due to a sprained ankle — played a key role defensively thanks to his long wingspan. He also added 18 points as the Lakers’ entire starting lineup scored in double figures, while winning their sixth straight at home.
Brandon Ingram's back-to-the-basket game has been a huge development so far this season, especially with these fadeaways he loves.— Joey Ramirez (@JoeyARamirez) December 22, 2018
B.I. currently ranks among the NBA's 84th percentile as a post-up scorer. Was only in the 30th last year. pic.twitter.com/HdOWSM22Wd
Rajon Rondo had eight points and nine assists after missing the previous five weeks due to a broken hand. … Jrue Holiday had 18 points and 10 assists for the Pelicans. … Metta World Peace, Rebel Wilson, Lena Waithe and Sarah Hyland were among the sold-out crowd.
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