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Anthony Davis, LeBron James can't avert another loss for Lakers

L.A.'s All-Stars both returned from injury, but the Lakers fell once again in the latest blow to their Play-In hopes.

The returns of Anthony Davis and LeBron James weren’t enough to avert another crushing loss for the Lakers, who continued their late-season swoon with a 114-111 loss to the visiting Pelicans.

Davis had missed 18 games with a mid-foot sprain in his right foot, while James had missed two straight with a sprained left ankle. Both played well, with James scoring 38 points and Davis adding 23 points, 12 rebounds and six assists. But the Lakers were unable to maintain a late lead as the Pelicans finished on a 15-7 run.

Jonas Valanciunas had 17 points and 12 rebounds for the ninth-place Pelicans, who won for the sixth time in eight games while dealing the second major blow in five days to the Lakers’ hopes of squeaking into the play-in tournament.

New Orleans beat Los Angeles 116-108 at home last weekend after rallying from a 23-point deficit, and the Pelicans swept the season series with this comeback on the road.

”It was big-time,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said. ”They threw the kitchen sink at us. LeBron (scored) 38 points. Getting Davis back sparked their team a little bit. We just hung in there, and the game was back and forth. We have to win games like that. Been talking about it all season, and it will pay dividends down the stretch.”

LeBron James missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer and scored just two of his 38 in the fourth quarter for the Lakers (31-46), who have lost five straight and 15 of 19 to fall one game behind 10th-place San Antonio (32-45), which holds the tiebreaker.

”The big picture is that it was pretty much a must-win for us, and we didn’t get the job done,” James said.

Davis had 23 points, 12 rebounds and six assists in his return from a six-week injury absence since Feb. 16, but the eight-time All-Star’s presence wasn’t enough to beat his former team. The Lakers now face long odds just to get past the Spurs for a one-game shot at the Pelicans, since four of LA’s final five games are against playoff-bound opponents.

”It’s going to be tough to catch (New Orleans) now, with the lead they have and the tiebreaker,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. ”But we have plenty of time to win as many games as we can down the stretch and see what happens with San Antonio.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report