By GREG BEACHAM – AP Sports Writer
LOS ANGELES (AP) — CJ McCollum scored 32 points, Brandon Ingram added 29 against his former team and the New Orleans Pelicans spoiled Anthony Davis’ return from injury with another fourth-quarter rally at 114-111 win over the Los Angeles Lakers. Friday night.
Jonas Valanciunas had 17 points and 12 rebounds for the No. 9 Pelicans, who won for the sixth time in eight games while dealing the second blow in five days to the Lakers’ hopes of advancing to the qualifying tournament.
New Orleans beat Los Angeles 116-108 at home last weekend after overcoming a 23-point deficit, and the Pelicans swept the season streak with this road comeback.
“It was a great moment,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said. “They threw the kitchen sink at us. LeBron (marked) 38 points. Davis’ return has given their team a bit of a boost. We just hung on and the game was back and forth. We have to win games like that. I’ve been talking about it all season, and it will pay dividends over time.
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LeBron James missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer and scored just two of his 38 in the fourth quarter for the Lakers (31-46), who have lost five straight and 15 of 19 to drop a game behind 10th place of San Antonio (32-45), which holds the tiebreaker.
“The bigger picture is that it was pretty much a must win for us, and we didn’t get the job done,” James said.
Davis had 23 points, 12 rebounds and six assists in his return from a six-week injury absence since Feb. 16, but an eight-time All-Star appearance wasn’t enough to beat his former team. The Lakers now face long odds just to pass the Spurs for a one-game shot against the Pelicans, as four of LA’s last five games have been against playoff-bound opponents.
“It’s going to be tough to catch (New Orleans) now, with the lead they have and the tiebreaker,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “But we have plenty of time to win as many games as possible and see what happens with San Antonio.”
New Orleans trailed for most of the fourth quarter, but Valanciunas hit a 3-pointer with 2:52 left. After Davis missed a floater, Ingram put the Pelicans ahead 110-108 on a fadeaway jumper.
“We had a bit of a coolness late in that game,” Ingram said. “At the end of the day, we had a good execution. Everyone was locked in defensively and we seemed confident.”
Avery Bradley’s 3-pointer with 15.8 seconds left cut New Orleans’ lead to 112-111. McCollum hit two free throws, and James’ 3-point triple clutch attempt in the middle of double coverage was not triggered by the horn.
“It was a tough environment with AD coming back, and we just battled it out,” said Herbert Jones, who harassed James with Larry Nance Jr. on the last play. and I got checked I knew Larry was there I just wanted to be there too Just force him to shoot I feel like we did a great job getting him to be difficult to do.
Davis has missed the previous 18 games with a sprained foot in his second long injury absence of the year. Davis had been injured for 39 games and healthy for 37 this season, his second in a row with major injury issues.
Los Angeles went 4-14 in Davis’ last absence, his disappointing season turning into a potentially humiliating one. James also missed three of the previous four games with a swollen ankle, but opted to play through the pain Friday with the return of Davis.
It meant Davis, James and Russell Westbrook played together for just the 21st time in the Lakers’ 77 games this season – and only the sixth time since Dec. 17. Injuries were the main – but not the only – factor in Los Angeles. descent from a likely championship contender to a borderline playoff team.
Pelicans: Green said his team also got fired up when the lights weren’t on for their morning shootout, forcing them to practice in the dark. … Jaxson Hayes dove with 36 seconds left in the first half, but the points were taken off the board after the video review after the halftime buzzer because Hayes didn’t beat the shot clock.
Lakers: Davis crossed the field to say something to a fan in the second row early in the fourth quarter after New Orleans called a timeout when LA took a six-point lead. The fan, who was wearing a Kobe jersey, was escorted away from his seat by security. … Carmelo Anthony was unavailable due to non-COVID illness.
James got into the holiday spirit on Thursday morning with a deadpan tweet: “I am absent for the season officially. See you in the fall.
James and the Lakers didn’t acknowledge the joke, but at least James apparently tipped off Vogel when he sent the tweet. The coach declined to say if he thought it was funny.
“I would have guessed it was April Fools even if I hadn’t known it was April Fools,” Vogel said.
Pelicans: At Clippers on Sunday.
Lakers: Host the Nuggets on Sunday.
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