The must-win games are piling up for the Lakers. Wednesday night they had an opportunity with the Clippers, Sacramento Kings and Minnesota Timberwolves all losing while the San Antonio Spurs won.
Those four teams and the Lakers are essentially competing for the seventh and eighth seeds for the Western Conference playoffs.
Here are five takeaways from the Lakers’ 125-119 win over the Pelicans.
1. Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma have been on a mission since the All-Star break. Ingram is averaging 27.75 points per game and Kuzma has been efficient by averaging nearly 20 points per game and shooting 54% after the All-Star game. Both had solid nights against the Pelicans, each eclipsing 20 points. After the team’s shootaround Wednesday, LeBron James was asked about how they were playing. “BI is in a crazy shooting zone right now with his efficiency more than anything,” James said. “And as far as Kuz as well. They’ve just been very efficient with their shot attempts, with their makes. It’s been very good to see them continue to grow throughout this process.”
2. James had a nice night himself. He scored 33 points on 13-of-24 shooting with 10 assists and six rebounds. He provided defensive plays that helped the Lakers seal their win. One of his signature shots of the game was the off-balance three-pointer he made during the game’s final minute. It gave the Lakers a six-point cushion and he just so happened to hit it in front of NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes.
3. There were plenty of personal connections in this game, from the Anthony Davis element to Los Angeles native Jrue Holiday and his Ninja Turtles headband. The player with a personal connection who made the biggest impact was Julius Randle. He was drafted seventh overall by the Lakers in 2014, not signed to an extension by the Lakers, and then allowed to leave in free agency. He scored a game-high 35 points and hit two three-pointers. After his more emphatic plays, Randle would look at the Lakers bench for a little extra chatter. It made some of his former teammates chuckle.
4. The Lakers had only eight turnovers in the game, which ties a season low they achieved three other times. James attributed that in part to Rajon Rondo returning to the lineup. “[He’s] a natural point guard, who’s a natural ball handler,” James said. “That definitely helped that cause.” In fact, the Lakers had almost as many steals (7) as turnovers.
5. Reggie Bullock is still providing the Lakers the boost they need. He scored 14 points, including a timely three-pointer during the fourth quarter, and provided disruptive defensive plays all night. Bullock’s steal helped set up James’ game-sealing three-pointer and another steal he had earlier in the game helped contribute to Kuzma’s third-quarter dunk party.
Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli