The Los Angeles Lakers squared off against the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday night, giving NBA fans around the globe a peek at what a first-round playoff matchup between the two teams might look like.
After a hard-fought battle, the Lakers managed to top the Pelicans, 118-109, marking their sixth straight win.
There were several interesting takeaways from Tuesday’s night’s game, so let’s dive right into the discussion.
LeBron James vs. Zion Williamson
In what was their first meeting in an NBA game, both players performed well. James led the Lakers to victory, scoring a team-high (and season-high) 40 points on 17-of-27 shooting from the field (5-of-11 from beyond the arc), eight rebounds, six assists and one block in 34 minutes of action.
Williamson missed the first half of this season, as he was recovering from a knee injury. He’s since recovered, and Tuesday night marked his 13th game played in the NBA.
In 33 minutes, the former Duke standout recorded 29 points on 8-of-18 shooting, six rebounds, three assists and one steal. With a focus on attacking the rim, Zion finished with a whopping 19 attempts at the free-throw line, making 13.
Notably, Williamson has now scored 25 or more points in five straight games. He may have been defeated in his first matchup against LeBron, but it’s clear that the rookie is well on his way to becoming one the league’s best players.
“It was a great experience,” Williamson said of his first matchup against LeBron James. “He’s an incredible player. His resume speaks for himself. … He handled business. He came out here and did what he had to do to help his team get the win.”
James, a three-time champion and four-time NBA MVP, sees a great deal of potential in Williamson’s game:
“He’s playing exceptional basketball,” James said of Williamson, via ESPN. “I think his game is going to get better and better, just having that experience. I think today’s game is the perfect fit for his game. The high pace, the way they play, it fits his game. … It works perfectly, and our game is so many possessions now, so much space, it’s perfect for his game, so he’s doing exceptionally well with that.”
The Bald Mamba
Alex Caruso once again provided a spark for the Lakers, most notably in the fourth quarter. With momentum in the balance, Caruso blocked a shot from Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball, sending him to the floor.
Caruso’s efforts were needed, as Lakers point guard Rajon Rondo had an off game. In fact, Rondo (0 points and two assists, one rebound and one steal) finished with a plus/minus rating of -17.
* @ACFresh21 was terrific in LAL’s 118-109 win, going for 8 points with 8 assists (1 turnover), 2 steals, 1 monster block of Lonzo Ball and a great between-the-legs pass to set up a monster @kingjames dunk. He was a game-high +20 in 17 minutes. pic.twitter.com/n6803Lk9ny
— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) February 26, 2020
Alex Caruso: 7-footer in a guard’s body 😤
(📺: TNT ) pic.twitter.com/d8f485V946
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) February 26, 2020
“We play so well together,” James said of Caruso, via ESPN.
How’s your ex?
Several members of the current Pelicans team were once members of the Lakers, including Ball, Josh Hart and Brandon Ingram. These players came to New Orleans as part of a trade for Anthony Davis prior to the start of this season.
Ball has been playing well with his new team. In Tuesday’s game, he racked up 10 points, eight assists and eight rebounds. Hart had three points and three rebounds.
Ingram is making the most of his new opportunity. The former No. 2 overall pick led the Pelicans against the Lakers, scoring a team-high 34 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two steals.
Though they were defeated in Tuesday night’s game, the Pelicans are just three and a half games back from the eighth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies. Might we see a Lakers-Pelicans matchup in the first round of this season’s playoffs?