New Orleans Pelicans vs Los Angeles Lakers NBA basketball game at Staples Center on Friday January 3, 2020. (Photo by Jevone Moore)

The first game Anthony Davis faced his former team, the Pelicans, in New Orleans it felt personal. After spending seven seasons in New Orleans, Anthony Davis was traded to Los Angeles for Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart in one of the biggest blockbuster trades of the summer. 

“The first game in New Orleans was definitely a lot more emotional, not only going against my former team but playing in that arena again,” said Davis. “Tonight, I think my teammates just gave me great opportunities and put me in great positions to score the basketball. I don’t think I did anything, especially I didn’t prepare any differently. Just came out and played basketball.” 

Davis led the Lakers to its fourth consecutive win as he notched his fifth 40-point game this season. He scored 46 points on the night to go along with 13 rebounds and three steals.

“Anthony is a mismatch problem for our team and a lot of players,” Ingram said. “I think they’re going to be a really, really good team in the Western Conference.”

For the first time since the trade, Ingram, Ball, and Hart returned to STAPLES Center to face the Lakers. When Ingram and Ball were announced in the starting lineups, they were met with a warm welcome from Lakers’ fans. It was not long ago, that the Lakers’ former young trio was projected as the future of the franchise having been selected as each of the Lakers’ first-round picks in recent years. 

During a break after the first quarter, the Lakers played a tribute video to honor their return. 

“Respect to them, that’s the team that drafted me and made my dreams come true,” Ingram said. 

Ball opened up the game with back-to-back three-pointers. He would not score again in the first quarter but finished with 23 points on the night. It was the first time in Ball’s three seasons in the league that he scored 20 points in back-to-back games.

“My body feels good and my confidence is where it is supposed to be,” Ball said.

Ingram on the other hand, who has been a top-10 scorer this season shot just 2-for-10 on shots when being defended by Davis and was able to finish with 22 points on 10-for-27 shooting from the field. 

Davis stated this game felt more like just another game by comparison to the Lakers’ Nov. 27 win at New Orleans where he scored 41 points. 

New Orleans Pelicans vs Los Angeles Lakers NBA basketball game at Staples Center on Friday January 3, 2020. (Photo by Jevone Moore)

“I don’t think he had one play where it looked stressed,” James said of Davis’s performance. 

“I felt like we force-fed him much less in this game,” added Lakers coach Frank Vogel. “I thought he got most of it in flow. Diverse attack, free throws, the three-point line, transition, rolls to the basket, post. He just scored in every way that you can, so it was definitely a different feel than last game.”

It was another impressive passing night for James who tallied 15 assists including three of Danny Green’s three-pointers. Green came out to a hot start with 17 first-quarter points on five made three’s and added 25 points, five rebounds and five assists to the Lakers’ win.   

“You’ll have some lax moments, some lapses, and the other team will play with no fear and nothing to lose,” Green reflected after the game. Though the Lakers would lead by as much as 24 points during the game, the Pelicans would not go away quietly cutting the Lakers lead to just seven points with 2:25 left in the fourth quarter.  

The Lakers were able to outlast the Pelicans as Davis grabbed a rebound and nailed a jump shot, while Green made two quick shots inside the final two minutes of the game. 

Since the blockbuster free agency trade, the reality of these teams has varied vastly especially heading into the matchup on Friday. The Lakers sat atop the Western Conference whereas the Pelicans had the second-worst record in the conference. With the Lakers win over the Pelicans and Davis’ second consecutive 40-plus-point game in each, the Lakers seem satisfied with their decision to reconstruct the team around James and the 26-year-old superstar.