LeBron James Outduels Zion Williamson as Lakers Beat Pelicans

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorFebruary 26, 2020

New Orleans Pelicans' Zion Williamson (1) looks on from under the basket during free throws next to Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James (23) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

LeBron James dropped 40 points and Anthony Davis added a 21-point, 14-rebound, six-block night as the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the visiting New Orleans Pelicans 118-109 on Tuesday at Staples Center.

James scored 16 of his 40 in the third quarter before helping L.A. outscore New Orleans 30-23 in the fourth to seal the nine-point win.

Brandon Ingram led New Orleans with 34 points, and Zion Williamson added 29 in his first matchup against James.

The 44-12 Lakers won their sixth straight and eighth in nine games. They lead the Western Conference by five games over the second-place Denver Nuggets.

The Pelicans, who had won five of their last six, fell to 25-33. They sit 3.5 games behind the Memphis Grizzlies for the eighth and final West playoff spot.


Notable Performances

Pelicans F Zion Williamson: 29 PTS, 6 REB, 3 AST

Pelicans F Brandon Ingram: 34 PTS, 7 REB, 4 AST

Pelicans PG Lonzo Ball: 10 PTS, 8 REB, 8 AST

Lakers G/F LeBron James: 40 PTS, 8 REB, 6 AST

Lakers F/C Anthony Davis: 21 PTS, 14 REB, 6 BLK

Lakers G Danny Green: 17 PTS, 5 REB, 4 AST


LeBron James Dominates in First Meeting with Zion Williamson

The first meeting between one of the NBA's all-time greats in LeBron James and one of the NBA's all-time talented rookies in Zion Williamson did not disappoint, as the two went blow for blow before the Lakers pulled away late in the fourth.

The night ultimately belonged to James, whose season-high 40 points came on 17-of-27 shooting (5-of-11 from three-point range).

His best individual highlight came in the second quarter with this poster dunk on Pels guard Josh Hart:

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

BRON POSTER ON JOSH HART 🤭🤭🤭 https://t.co/KY8LY2pMmx

But James' efforts in the third quarter proved to be the difference.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Bron took over the 3Q 🔥 He's got 31 PTS heading into the 4Q https://t.co/GXdaTpeb5v

The Pels ended the first half on a 12-6 run to crawl within 64-58 at halftime. They kept the pressure on in the third by opening with a Lonzo Ball three-pointer.

However, James took over from there, going on a personal 11-0 run to turn a slight 64-61 edge into a comfortable 75-61 lead.

During that span, fans were treated to James vs. Williamson one-on-one, with the King launching a three to give L.A. the 72-61 advantage:

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Bron isolated Zion 💰 https://t.co/TNJYU9zOU0

Undeterred, the Pels roared back with a 19-4 run, with Ingram scoring 10 of those points. James did sneak in another highlight during that stretch with some bully ball down low:

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Bron backed down and bullied Holiday 🤒 https://t.co/Ljlaz85nln

But the Pels proved during that run that they aren't about to back down against any team, not even against the league's best in their own arena. They entered the fourth quarter down only two despite facing a 14-point deficit earlier in the frame.

But James was simply too good down the stretch. A three-point play gave the Lakers a 93-86 edge early in the fourth, and he scored six more points in the frame to help L.A. to victory.

That included this fast-break dunk to effectively put away the game:

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Bron taking flight off the break. Never gets old. https://t.co/KDyOzJ49Sy

Ultimately, James put forth a phenomenal performance, with Lakers reporter Mike Trudell noting the four-time NBA MVP's scoring prowess from the entire court:

Mike Trudell @LakersReporter

Meanwhile, @KingJames has been spectacular tonight. He’s up to 36 points on 15 of 22 FG’s, scoring inside with a series of dunks, and outside with 5 3’s.

Will Guillory of The Athletic noted how focused James seemed to be on this night, too:

Will Guillory @WillGuillory

LeBron is all the way locked in tonight

By the end of the night, the 17-year veteran had accomplished something not done since the late Lakers legend Kobe Bryant in 2013:

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Bron drops season-high 40 PTS against Pelicans 👑 He becomes the first player with a 40-point game in his 17th season (or later) since Kobe Bryant in 2013. https://t.co/YLymNesHoJ

James will head into his next contest 12th in points per game and first in the league in assists per game.


What's Next?

The Lakers will begin a three-game road trip against the Golden State Warriors on Thursday at 10:30 p.m. ET in San Francisco's Chase Center.

The Pels will return to Smoothie King Center to start a three-game homestand against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday at 8 p.m. ET.