LeBron James goes up for a layup

Lakers Control Game, Beat Pelicans to Claim 8th Seed

The Lakers came into their final regular season game with a single goal: win and be the 8th seed (and get two chances to win one play-in game to advance to the playoffs). With that as the driver, the team came out with great focus and energy that allowed them to take an early lead -- one they would never surrender -- and ultimately beat the Pelicans 124-108. With this victory and the Suns beating the Wolves, the Lakers will now stay in New Orleans to face them again on Tuesday in the 7/8 play-in game with the winner advancing to face the 2nd seeded Nuggets in the 1st round.

This was a great team win in which all of the main rotation players came locked in and ready to play, but leading the way in this regard were the team's star duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

LeBron tallied a triple-double with 28 points, 11 rebounds, and 17 assists while knocking down 11 of 20 from the field and all six of his free throws. LeBron put on a masterclass of game management and offensive control, capitalizing on every sliver and crack the defense offered to hit teammates for makable shots and then seeking out his own offense when the opportunities presented themselves.

Of LeBron's 17 dimes, eight came in the 1st quarter and 13 in the first half -- the latter a career-high number for any half in a 21-year career that has some of the most eye-popping numbers imaginable.

As a scorer LeBron was nearly as deadly as he was a passer, taking advantage of New Orleans' lack of rim protection and several open court opportunities to score repeatedly in the paint. All but one of LeBron's makes came right in the restricted area and his relentless attacking as a driver and out of deep post ups combined with the pressure his passing put on the rim, it was just a fantastic game from him on that side of the ball.

On the defensive end, however, LeBron was just as locked in and extremely impactful as well. Taking on the task of defending Zion Williamson, LeBron used a combination of his physical tools and defensive acumen to limit Zion and limit his ability to get into the paint where he is so dangerous. LeBron helped hold Zion to just four of 13 from the field for 12 points to go along with four turnovers. Some of those TO's were directly related to LeBron's efforts, as he snagged five steals and was great at getting strips on the ball and stepping into passing lanes for deflections off the ball.

As for AD, he led the team with 30 points and 11 rebounds while adding three assists and two steals for a double-double of his own. AD was monstrous from an efficiency standpoint, connecting on 13 of his 17 shots from the floor while also making all four of his free throw attempts while causing a multitude of problems for both his individual defender and for the Pelicans' defense as a group.

With either a speed and quickness advantage vs. Jonan Valanciunas, a size and strength advantage against Larry Nance Jr. and some of the Pelicans' smaller lineups, or enough mobility and dexterity to find the creases when the Pelicans played zone, AD was able to get to and finish in and around the paint over and over again, either diving out of the pick-and-roll, working off the dribble himself, or getting to the offensive glass for put-backs.

The only rough part of AD's day was needing to leave the game with a little over five minutes when his back locked up on him after a put-back attempt on the offensive glass, but post game Darvin Ham said he was extremely optimistic about his star big man moving into Tuesday, while AD added he expected to play and would get treatment to see how he responds over the next day or two.

Outside of LeBron and AD, the Lakers got double-digit scoring nights an efficient shooting from their other three starters with Rui Hachimura (11 points, five of 10 shooting), D'Angelo Russell (19 points, five of 10 on three-pointers), and Austin Reaves (20 points eight of 12 from the field) all coming ready to contribute on that end of the floor. And then defensively, all three were also steady contributors with each of them not only working well in their individual matchups, but playing with great activity within the team's defensive schemes.

Off the bench the Lakers got good minutes from all four of their main reserves. Offensively, Taurean Prince (9 points) and Spencer Dinwiddie (7 points) combined for 16 points while the combination of Jaxson Hayes and Gabe Vincent were great sparks defensively, especially in the 2nd quarter when the Lakers really seized control of the game, stretching their six-point 1st quarter lead to 17 at intermission.

It was that 40-point 2nd quarter and a similar 13-4 run by the starters coming out of halftime that really put this game away. The team simply proved ready for the challenge this game offered and really put together the type of mentally sharp and physically strong performance that they needed to get the win. And while the Pelicans did scrap back from being down 32 to cut their deficit to 17, the Lakers were able to grab back control of the game ensure that they would come out on top.

The Lakers will now try to bottle what they did well in this game, improve on the areas in which they see the need for improvement, and try to replicate this win when these teams face off again on Tuesday in the play-in.

Lakers at Pelicans Game Highlights 04-14-24