LeBron James and Lakers upset Pelicans in play-in, rematching Nuggets in playoffs.

New Orleans — LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and their supporting cast make the Los Angeles Lakers a tougher playoff opponent than they were a few weeks ago. The New Orleans Pelicans are on the brink of elimination and worried about star power forward Zion Williamson, who was injured in the waning minutes of a tight game.

James scored 23 points, nine assists, and nine rebounds as the Lakers defeated the Pelicans 110-106 in the Western Conference play-in round on Tuesday to advance. “Tonight we showcased what we were able to do both offensively and defensively,” said James, whose team has won 12 of 15 before the playoffs. “We have a good group, rotation, plan, and guys are ready to go.”  

Williamson scored 40 and 11 rebounds. After tying the game at 95 on a driving layup with 3:19 left, Williamson headed to the locker room and threw a towel to the court in disgust as he entered the tunnel with an apparent injury. After the game, Pelicans coach Willie Green claimed Williamson experienced “left leg soreness.”

He’s going to have some imaging on it tomorrow and we’ll figure out more,” Green said. James hit a jumper, Davis slammed Austin Reaves' alley-oop pass, DeAngelo Russell hit a 3, and Davis grabbed a vital offensive rebound and hit two free throws to help the Lakers hold on after Williamson left.  

Lakers coach Darvin Ham claimed the Pelicans “threw some heavy blows at us.” They kept swinging. Our resistance continued. It reveals a lot about us and our nature, he said. Davis had 20 points, 15 rebounds. Russell scored 21 with five deep shots. Davis made 8 of 10 free throws and James 10 of 10.  

The Lakers meet defending champion Denver in the first round in a rematch of last season's Western Conference finals sweep. Game 1 is Saturday night. A win over Sacramento on Friday will give the Pelicans the No. 8 West seed. Later Wednesday night, the Kings defeated Golden State in the play-in game.  

Obviously a tough loss for us,” said Green, whose team could have won the sixth spot in the playoffs on Sunday but lost 124-108 to the Lakers at home, setting up the play-in game. “We must feel this one tonight, regroup, and prepare for another.” Green called Williamson “fantastic.” “He found his groove. He persisted in attacking. He discovered seams. Rebounding the ball. “He played fast,” Green said. “(If) we have him for a few more minutes, maybe we can pull this thing out.”  

Lakers shot 14/35 from 3-point range. The Pelicans shot 9 of 29 from beyond and Williamson didn't get any support from their high scorers. In his second game back from a 12-game knee injury, Brandon Ingram missed 8 of 12 shots and scored 11 points after sitting out the final minutes.  

“I just like the group that was on the floor at that time,” Green added. “BI is still recovering and finding his rhythm. Thus, I avoided forcing the issue.” The nine-point CJ McCollum missed 11 of 15 shots. Trey Murphy III scored 12 and nailed two 3-pointers from 28 feet to help New Orleans level it after an 18-point second-half hole.  

Rui Hachimura's third-quarter layup gave the Lakers a 75-57 lead. New Orleans rallied by outscoring Los Angeles 19-8 in the last 5:31. Williamson started the run with two layups. The quarter ended with Murphy's 31-foot 3-pointer and Williamson's free throw, making it 83-76. Williamson's transition hit on Jose Alvarado's alley-oop lob tied it at 93-all with 3:53 left. To avenge a poor defeat to the Lakers on Sunday, the Pelicans started well and seized a 34-28 lead on Herb Jones' 3.  

LA outscored New Orleans 34-16 in the second quarter, leading by 14 after James, who had 15 first-half points, made two free throws to make it 58-44. Williamson ran nearly the length of the court on the dribble for a floating layup at the horn to make it 60-50 as the half ended.  

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