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Friday, February 23, 2024

Pelicans Soar Past Lakers 129-109 as Williamson and Ingram Shine with 26 Points Each

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Zion Williamson has no interest in forgetting the New Orleans Pelicans’ most embarrassing loss of the season.

Memories of the 133-89 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in the In-Season Tournament semifinal in Las Vegas on Dec. 7 are painful, Williamson said, but the sluggish performance might also have been a “blessing in disguise.”

Williamson and Brandon Ingram each scored 26 points and the Pelicans beat the road-weary Lakers 129-109 on Sunday night to improve to 7-3 since leaving Las Vegas.

“It definitely brought us together more as a team,” Williamson said. “I feel like we’ve been playing great since then. We’ve still got some things to figure out, but so does every other team.”

Los Angeles was coming off a 108-106 loss at Minnesota on Saturday night, while New Orleans was off two days after beating Utah at home Thursday night.

LeBron James scored 34 points and former Pelican Anthony Davis added 20 points and 10 rebounds, but they didn’t get enough help as the Lakers lost for the seventh time in nine games.

“We have to figure it out and get better, for sure,” James said. “We’re not one team that likes to play from behind. We’ve been in that position a lot this year.

“The flight last night did not help, obviously,” added James, who played through flu-like symptoms on Saturday and Sunday. “We didn’t get to the hotel last until 3:45 (a.m.). So, it was a rough day trying to recalibrate and get ready for the game. But I’m happy I was able to go out and just try to make some plays happen for my team.”

The Pelicans had the look of a team seeking redemption for it’s previous dud against the Lakers — and played with vigor in front of a packed and festive New Year’s Eve crowd.

“The way we lost the game, you want to redeem yourself,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said. “We talked about it the last coupe days and watched some film on it — as hard as it was.”

CJ McCollum added 22 points for the Pelicans, who led by 19 points and responded to each comeback bid with the help of 50% 3-point shooting (17 of 34) as a team and crafty 6-foot guard Jose “Grand Theft” Alvarado’s four steals and and two blocks.

Alvarado is “one of our emotional leaders and his ability to impact this team with his energy, his effort, it was huge tonight,” Green said. “It’s a blessing to have a guy like that on your team who can really ignite the whole building.”

It was the fourth time that New Orleans’ “Big Three” — Williamson, Ingram and McCollum — each scored 20 or more in one game, including once last season and three times in the past month. The Pelicans are 4-0 in such games.

“Not only are they scoring, but they’re sharing the ball with each other and their teammates,” Green said. “That’s the trust factor we have to have.”

Larry Nance Jr. had 11 points and 10 rebounds in just his second game back from a rib injury. Herb Jones and Jonas Valanciunas each scored 13 points.

The Lakers went into the game without forward Cam Reddish (adductor) and D’Angelo Russell (back), while the Pelicans were without one of their top 3-point shooters in Trey Murphy III (left knee). All were day-to-day.

Then Lakers forward Rui Hachimura left the game in the first half with a left calf strain.

Despite missing Murphy, New Orleans was on from deep. McCollum made five early 3s and finished with six. Jones made three 3s from the right corner in the second quarter.

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