PHOENIX SUNS

LeBron James and the Lakers secure a playoff berth with win over the Pelicans

Apr 16, 2024, 8:34 PM

Lakers secure a playoff berth with 110-106 win over the Pelicans....

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) goes to the basket in the first half of an NBA basketball play-in tournament game against the New Orleans Pelicans, Tuesday, April 16, 2024, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — LeBron James had 23 points, nine assists and nine rebounds, and the Los Angeles Lakers secured a playoff berth with a 110-106 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans in the Western Conference play-in tournament on Tuesday night.

Zion Williamson had 40 points and 11 rebounds in his NBA postseason debut.

But shortly after tying the game at 95 on a driving layup with 3:19 to go, Williamson went to the locker room, throwing a towel to the floor in disgust as he walked into the tunnel with an apparent injury.

After the game, Pelicans coach Willie Green said Williamson had “left leg soreness.”

“He’s going to have some imaging on it tomorrow and we’ll figure out more,” Green said.

Soon after, James hit a jumper, Anthony Davis dunked Austin Reaves’ alley-oop lob, DeAngelo Russell hit a 3 and Davis grabbed a crucial offensive rebound, after which he hit two free throws to help the Lakers hold off New Orleans.

Davis had 20 points and 15 rebounds. Russell scored 21, hitting five times from deep.

The Lakers advance to face defending NBA champion Denver in the first round in a rematch of last season’s Western Conference finals, which was swept by the Nuggets. Game 1 is Saturday night.

The Pelicans will take on the winner of the other West play-in game between Golden State and Sacramento on Friday.

The Lakers went 14 of 35 from 3-point range. The Pelicans hit 9 of 29 from deep and Williamson didn’t get a lot of help from the Pelicans’ usual high scorers.

Brandon Ingram missed 8 of 12 shots and finished with 11 points. CJ McCollum missed 11 of 15 shots and scored nine.

Trey Murphy III scored 12, hitting two 3s from beyond 28 feet in the second half to help New Orleans come back to tie it from a deficit as large as 18 points.

The Lakers led 75-57 after Rui Hachimura’s layup in the third quarter. But New Orleans got back in the game by outscoring Los Angeles 19-8 during the final 5:31 of the period.

Williamson sparked the surge with a pair of layups. Murphy pulled up for a 31-foot 3-pointer in the final minute of the quarter and Williamson’s free throw made it 83-76 at the end of the period.

The Pelicans finally tied it when Williamson slammed down Jose Alvarado’s alley-oop lob in transition to make it 93-all with 3:53 to go.

Looking to redeem themselves for a lackluster 128-108 loss to the Lakers in Sunday’s regular-season finale, the Pelicans put together a promising opening quarter and took a 34-28 lead on Herb Jones’ 3.

That, however, was one of just four 3’s in 16 attempts that New Orleans hit in the first half. The Lakers, meanwhile, went 10 of 20 from deep during the opening two periods, with Russell hitting three.

Los Angeles surged into the lead by outscoring New Orleans 34-16 in the second quarter, leading by as many as 14 after James, who had 15 first half points, hit a pair of free throws to make it 58-44.

Williamson, who had 20 first-half points, cut New Orleans’ halftime deficit to 10 with a pair of inside baskets, starting when Ingram found him on a backside cut for a dunk.

In the final seconds of the period, Williamson sprinting mot of the length of the court on the dribble for layup at the horn that made it 60-50.

UP NEXT

Lakers: Open their first-round playoff series at Denver on Saturday.

Pelicans: At home Friday for the do-or-die Western Conference play-in finale against either Golden State or Sacramento. And they could be without Williamson.

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