PERFECT COUPLE: Close-up of the outstanding performance of LeBron James and Anthony Davis leading the Lakers to defeat the Pelicans to take 8th place in the West

Many felt like they had seen this before when the Lakers defeated the New Orleans Pelicans 124-108 in Sunday’s regular-season finale at Smoothie King Center, which gave them eighth place in the Western Conference rankings.

LeBron James, Anthony Davis achieve statistical milestone versus Kings - Yahoo Sports

LeBron James (28 points, 17 assists, 11 rebounds, five steals) and Anthony Davis (30 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, two steals) led the Lakers (47-35) in a businesslike manner against New Orleans, just as they had against the Pelicans on December 7 in Las Vegas in the semifinals.

LeBron James leads Lakers to win over Pelicans, setting up rematch in NBA  Play-In Tournament

“You could just feel the vibe when we did our walkthrough [Saturday] at the hotel,” said coach Darvin Ham. We watched a motion picture. A lot of guys weren’t happy with how we played in [Friday’s win over the Memphis Grizzlies], as we made a few mistakes but didn’t completely give up. Just trying to make sure we are as tight as possible on both sides of the ball in terms of execution.

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James got things going by dishing out assists on the first seven Lakers baskets and assuming defensive responsibilities from Zion Williamson. The Lakers blocked Williamson’s drive to the hoop by positioning people in front of James.

Lakers secure eighth seed, will play Pelicans in New Orleans - Silver  Screen and Roll

James put it this way: “It just sets a tone.” Typically, AD sets the tone. a couple of other men. But Bron putting so much weight on his own is a big feat.

“That kid is such a great basketball player.” He agreed to take on this vast undertaking. It also reminds the other members of our team that a player with Bron’s experience and caliber is willing to defend a young talent like that. Men responded. We were really active at this point.

LeBron James' triple-double lifts Lakers over Pelicans and into a play-in  rematch with New Orleans | National News |

James achieved his fifth career triple-double.

While Williamson (12 points on 4-for-13 shooting) struggled to finish even when he got to his spots, Davis controlled the paint on both ends and played a significant role in the Pelicans finishing with just 42 points in the post. Davis departed the game late, citing an ailment that was not disclosed.

The Pelicans turned the ball over 19 times for 27 Lakers points, with Williamson accounting for four of those instances.

LeBron James' triple-double lifts Lakers over Pelicans and into a play-in  rematch with New Orleans | National News |

The Phoenix Suns defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves on the road to complete the regular season. The Lakers will play the Pelicans (49-33) again on Tuesday in the 7-8 play-in tournament game while they are still in New Orleans. The seventh seed in the Western Conference for the playoffs will be decided by the outcome of this game.

The second-seeded Denver Nuggets will play the winner of Tuesday’s game in the opening round of the playoffs. The losers will host the victor of the Golden State Warriors vs. Sacramento Kings 9-10 play-in game on Friday.

The first 42 minutes of the Lakers’ game could not have gone any better.

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James drives to the basket against New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson in the second half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Sunday, April 14, 2024. The Lakers won 124-108. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

With 13 assists in the first half, James, a 21-year NBA veteran, set a new career high and helped the Lakers lead 70-53 at the break.

In his own words, James aimed to “just put the ball on time and on target for guys at the rim or jump shots.” I discovered my teammates after reading the game. “I simply tried to make the most use of my play.”

Halfway through the third quarter, the Lakers had a game-high 32-point lead (91–59) over the Pelicans, thanks to a 13–4 run to start the second half.

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