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Zion Williamson, Pelicans Cruise Past LeBron James-Less Lakers in Easy Win

Blake SchusterSenior Analyst IIIMarch 24, 2021

New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson (1) goes to the basket against Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma (0) during the first half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Tuesday, March 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

The New Orleans Pelicans handed the Los Angeles Lakers a third-straight loss on Tuesday night, 128-111, at Smoothie King Center as the reigning champions continue to struggle without Anthony Davis and LeBron James in the lineup.

Pelicans stars Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram combined for 63 points in the win to help New Orleans (19-24) stay alive in the race for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference while the Lakers' grip on a top-four seed begins to weaken. 

Los Angeles (28-16) entered Tuesday's game in third place and 3.5 games back of the Utah Jazz for first in the West. That road gets a bit tougher now as James (high-ankle sprain) remains out indefinitely and Davis (Achilles) is still a few weeks from returning to the lineup. 

It's just the second three-game losing streak for L.A. this season with the club's longest winless streak standing at four games in 2020-21.

  

Notable Performers

Brandon Ingram, SF, New Orleans Pelicans: 36 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds

Zion Williamson, PF, New Orleans Pelicans: 27 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists

Kyle Kuzma, SF, Los Angeles Lakers: 16 points, 10 rebounds, 7 assists

Dennis Schroder, PG, Los Angeles Lakers: 15 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds

   

Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram Torch Lakers

Fresh off winning Most Improved Player last year, Ingram continues to absolutely light up the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Lakers dealt Ingram to New Orleans as part of a deal to acquire Anthony Davis before the 2019-20 season and it's clear he's going to continue taking it out on his old team. In five previous games against the team that drafted him No. 2 overall in 2016, Ingram was averaging 22.8 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists.

Those numbers are about to take another massive jump up after his 36-point performance on Tuesday. 

New Orleans Pelicans @PelicansNBA

Ingram is feelin it 🔥 https://t.co/IaLgc9bHVj

Ingram posted 33 points before the fourth quarter even began, helping run up the score against the defending champs regardless of who they had on the floor. The 23-year-old had a game-high 16 points on nine shots at halftime in what appeared to just be a warm up.

And as Ingram keep firing off his jump shot, Williamson kept cutting into the paint to bully what was left of a banged-up L.A. frontcourt. 

New Orleans Pelicans @PelicansNBA

up top to Zion! 💪 https://t.co/UWvqJqYs9q

Daniel Sallerson @dsallerson

.@PelicansNBA tie their season-high with 43 3rd quarter points and lead the Lakers 102-76. Brandon Ingram leads the team with 33 points.

The second-year pro out of Duke has now scored at least 20 points in 21 consecutive games and has failed to eclipse that mark in just four contests total. 

As Pelicans head coach Stan Van Gundy continues to mold the Pelicans in his image, he's got two motivated and skilled players up front in Ingram and Williamson who keep proving they can carry the load. Whether or not that ends in a playoff run this season, the future remains as bright as ever in New Orleans. 

New Orleans Pelicans @PelicansNBA

Career-high 16 points for rookie @kiralewisjr 👏 #WontBowDown https://t.co/rmWR8EZJPX

Lakers Offense Stalls Again

The Lakers have some major questions that require immediate answers with just over a day until the NBA trade deadline.

Tuesday's loss exposed that as well as any could. 

After failing to exceed 94 points in their last two losses, the Lakers finally snapped that streak only to run into a Pelicans' offense that applied pressure for 48 minutes in a way L.A. didn't have the bodies to match. Part of that is the rash of injuries across the roster, and having to play three games in four days—including two on the road—isn't helping matters. 

Los Angeles Lakers @Lakers

Unselfish basketball leads to another Wes trey 🏹🏹 https://t.co/ihKCO4Z5YP

That doesn't absolve the Lakers from giving up a 30-point lead to a team under .500, but it makes clear just how thin the current margin for error is. 

So it's come down to this: the defending champions are without two of the most indispensable players in the NBA for at least the next few weeks, are in danger of losing their grip on home court advantage for the postseason and have suddenly found themselves in a stalled offense. 

Los Angeles Lakers @Lakers

https://t.co/XzgioUEZtq

There are no easy answers here. 

The front office would be bold to move any key players at the deadline for immediate help, but a three-game losing streak isn't exactly the time to remain calm, either. 

However the Lakers decide to address the talent drain, it's clear the next 36 hours may be the most crucial stretch of Los Angeles' title defense. A 17-point loss to the Pelicans made that more obvious than ever. 

What's Next

The Lakers return home to face the Philadelphia 76ers at 9 p.m. ET Thursday night on TNT, though the Sixers are currently missing their own MVP candidate in Joel Embiid (knee) for the foreseeable future. The Pelicans, meanwhile, face-off against another title contender when the Denver Nuggets head to New Orleans on Friday at 7 p.m. ET. 

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