In their fourth game this week, the Los Angeles Lakers are still winning. After executing the longest road-game winning streak to start the season in franchise history, the Los Angeles Lakers return to the Staples Center to oust the New Orleans Pelicans 112-95.
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel expressed how the roster is full of versatility.
“There’s not a lot of one-trick ponies on this team,” he said. “Guys who can put it on the deck, make plays on pick-and-rolls, attack the paint and make plays off the bounce, but also carry that threat off the basketball.”
Lakers forward LeBron James led the team with 21 points and 11 assists, forward Kyle Kuzma made 13 rebounds. Pelicans forward Zion Williamson scored 21 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. Forward Brandon Ingram made five assists.
Although the Pelicans out rebounded the reigning NBA Champions 47-44, the Lakers brought a strong defensive performance by committing 11 steals and six blocks. Forward Anthony Davis led in both categories in the contest.
The Purple and Gold also capitalized off New Orleans’ mistakes, going 19-26 from the free throw line and scoring 20 points on the Pelican’s turnovers.
“They turned up the defense and just dominated us in both ends after that,” said Pelicans head coach Stan Van Gundy. “You’re gonna have a hard time winning against a team like the Lakers if you’re giving the ball away and putting them at the free throwline.”
Lakers forward Wesley Matthews returned to the hardwood from having right Achilles soreness.
The Pelicans started the game with near impeccable shooting accuracy, only missing one basket in the first six minutes. New Orleans led the Lakers by as much as 13 points. Davis hit free throws and forward Markieff Morris made shots to end the first quarter trailing the Pelicans by eight points.
As the second quarter went on, the Purple and Gold found their offensive rhythm. An eight-point run ignited by guard Alex Caruso cut down a 15-point deficit. Guard Dennis Schröder kept the momentum going with two quick steals.
“Having a defender like Dennis the Menace did being able to pick up full court and get two or three consecutive steals or deflections, get us out into a break, he got us right back into the game,” James said. “Big time on his part.”
Executing from the free-throw line also helped the Lakers, Davis scored seven of 10 free throws in the first half.
Despite only shooting at 40 percent from field, the Lakers went into halftime behind by one point. Ingram led all scorers with 17 points at this time while Davis was at 15 points. Rest could have been a factor for New Orleans as the Lakers played an away game two days prior to the matchup.
“We were slow defensively, we were slow offensively,” Davis said. “They had one game in seven days and we knew they’re gonna come out with a lot of energy.”
Both teams experienced foul trouble early in the third quarter. Although he acquired his fourth foul, Marc Gasol stayed on the floor for five regulated minutes before being subbed out by Kuzma. The Lakers made a nine-point run, fueled by forcing turnovers; this put the Lakers ahead by six points.
“I do think we’re trying our best to get to the basket and get to the lane,” said New Orleans guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker. “They do a good job of putting pressure on the defense.”
For six regulated minutes, New Orleans lost their shot completely and made costly turnovers. The Lakers scored 16 points during that time.
Kuzma secured eight rebounds during the fourth phase, ending the night with 11 points. Forward Montrezl Harrell secured close range shots to maintain the Lakers strong lead and ultimately score 16 points.
The Lakers sank 14 three pointers in the matchup. Guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope noted how sharing the ball helps the team’s offense.
“Everybody looks for that open shot,” he said. “[Vogel], he preaches that a lot in practice: making the extra pass, get teammates involved, touching the paint, kicking it out for threes.”
The Lakers will host the Golden State Warriors on Martin Luther King Day at 7:00P.M.