LeBron James, Anthony Davis carry Lakers to 8th seed, Play-In rematch vs. Pelicans

LeBron and AD powered the Lakers to the first of two wins they’ll need in New Orleans this week.

Sparked by playoff-ready efforts from LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the Los Angeles Lakers locked up the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference with a dominant, 124-108 win over the New Orleans Pelicans in the regular-season finale on Sunday.

Coming off an uninspired yet necessary victory over the shorthanded Memphis Grizzlies on Friday, the Lakers approached Game 82 with a postseason focus, ushered in by LeBron.

In his 71st game (72 including the In-Season Tournament), LeBron posted the fifth triple-double of his age-39 campaign: 28 points, 17 assists (two shy of his career-high), and 11 rebounds.

More influential was his defensive intensity. LeBron grabbed five steals and checked Zion Williamson (12 points, 4-of-13 FG) from the jump. The Lakers held the Pelicans to 47.7% shooting and committed to contesting the 3-point line.

“That’s a huge challenge that he took on,” said Lakers head coach Darvin Ham. “It sends a message to the rest of our team — that a guy of LeBron’s stature and his tenure steps up to the plate to defend a young superstar like that. No one else can make excuses. Completely set the base for our defense, and guys responded.”

For the season, LeBron averaged 25.6 points, 8.2 assists, and 7.2 rebounds while shooting 54% from the field and a career-high(!) 41.3% from 3-point range. Needless to say: Nobody has produced like that in Year 21.

The Lakers and Pelicans will run it back at the Smoothie King Center in the No. 7 vs. No. 8 Play-In Tournament game. LeBron was asked if the dynamic feels like going on the road for the first two games of a playoff series.

“That’s exactly what it feels like,” he said. “You don’t get too high on one win because you gotta come back and play it again.”

Anthony Davis, playing his career-best 76th game, posted 30 points on 13-of-17 shooting and 11 rebounds. He had to exit after getting shoved in the back by Larry Nance Jr. in garbage time, which he labeled a “dangerous” play.

Davis suffered a hip/back spasm akin to the ones he’s dealt with since the fall. The Lakers star said he’ll be ready for the play-in.

“Nothing concerning for me,” he said. “No doubt that I’m going to play.”

D’Angelo Russell (19 points, 5-of-10 from 3) broke out of his three-game cold spell. Austin Reaves added 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting.

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