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LeBron James’ 40 points bests Zion Williamson, sends Lakers past Pelicans

Lakers’ LeBron James drives to the basket on New Orleans Pelicans’ Jrue Holiday in the second quarter at Staples Center on Tuesday.
Lakers’ LeBron James drives to the basket on New Orleans Pelicans’ Jrue Holiday in the second quarter at Staples Center on Tuesday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

In the latest emotional game for the Lakers, LeBron James set the tone.

A day after the memorial for Kobe Bryant, James had a season-high 40 points in their 118-109 win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday night at Staples Center.

He was 17 for 27 from the field and five for 11 from three-point range. He had eight rebounds, six assists and several highlight dunks to help the Lakers (44-12) win their sixth consecutive game.

“I was just reading the defense,” James said. “They went under a lot of my pick-and-rolls; pretty much every team has done that this year, so I just try to make them pay. I was able to get a couple of threes going and then I was being aggressive the rest of the [third] quarter.”

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Anthony Davis played through pain in his left elbow as result of falling down after missing a shot. He injured it again after getting one of his six blocks.

The Lakers are calling it a sore left elbow for Davis, who had 21 points and 14 rebounds.

Lakers’ Anthony Davis drives to the basket between New Orleans Pelicans’ Josh Hart (3) and J.J. Redick in the first quarter at Staples Center on Tuesday.
Lakers’ Anthony Davis drives to the basket between New Orleans Pelicans’ Josh Hart (3) and J.J. Redick in the first quarter at Staples Center on Tuesday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

“It’s fine,” Davis said

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Alex Caruso played well enough that Lakers coach Frank Vogel said his guard “definitely got the game ball tonight.”

Caruso, who had eight points and eight assists, blocked a Lonzo Ball shot that went off the Pelicans guard as the ball fell out of bounds.

Caruso’s best play was a between-the-legs pass to James, who soared and dunked over Josh Hart.

“I was telling AC, ‘trailing middle, trailing middle.’ So, it was up to him to decide what pass he wanted to throw, but he threw it on time, on target, through his legs and I knew I had to just try to get up there,” James said. “I didn’t see Josh Hart. Once AC threw it, then he kind of got out of the way and then I saw Josh Hart and I just tried to finish it and I was able to do so.”

In his first game against the Lakers this season, New Orleans rookie Zion Williamson had 29 points. Former Laker Brandon Ingram led the Pelicans with 34 points.

James was still full of emotion following the memorial for Bryant.

He has been trying to come to grips with things after Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others died Jan. 26 in a helicopter crash.

James talked about how impressed he was to hear Vanessa Bryant speak so eloquently about her husband and daughter.

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New Orleans Pelicans’ Zion Williamson is fouled by Lakers’ Markieff Morris while driving to the basket in the fourth quarter at Staples Center on Tuesday.
New Orleans Pelicans’ Zion Williamson is fouled by Lakers’ Markieff Morris while driving to the basket in the fourth quarter at Staples Center on Tuesday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

“It was very emotional, very emotional day, very tough day for myself, for my family, for everyone involved,” James said. “The one thing I can come out of this saying is how strong and how bold and how powerful Vanessa is to stand up there the way she did, to give the speech the way she gave that speech.

“I commend her. My heart is with her family still, with his three daughters that’s still here, with his wife, with his mom and dad, his sister. It was just a very difficult day.”

Perhaps, James was asked, the Lakers can get things back to normal after the Bryant memorial.

“It’s never a closure. It’s never going to be a closure,” he said. “I mean, we continue to live on his legacy and continue to have our hearts heavy with both sadness and with happiness for his family that are still here. So, it’s not a closure. But it was a celebration, which was well received from not only the Laker faithful, not only the family here, but everybody around the world.”

Etc.

In his first game with the Lakers, Markieff Morris scored four points. ... The Lakers will meet with free-agent guard Dion Waiters on March 2, according to a person not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. Waiters was waived by the Memphis Grizzlies following his trade there from Miami.


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