Lakers visit Pelicans and part-time Davis
The Los Angeles Lakers will try to keep their momentum going Saturday night, when they visit the New Orleans Pelicans, who aren't getting full work out of unhappy star Anthony Davis.
The Lakers are coming off one of their most impressive victories of the season, a 111-106 win against the visiting Houston Rockets on Thursday night in both teams' return from the All-Star break.
"I believe we'll continue to get better and better," said Lakers star LeBron James. "(Thursday) night was a good step in the right direction."
The Lakers had lost four of five heading into the break, but James said he and Los Angeles are ready to kick into an extra gear heading into the stretch run.
James missed 17 games with a groin injury sustained in a Christmas Day win against the Golden State Warriors, which likely still ranks as the best victory for Los Angeles this season.
"It wasn't that I needed to reach a different level," James said. "It was that I needed to be in that level right now under the circumstances that we're in. Just kick-starting something a little bit earlier than I've done in the past. I like where I'm at. I'll love where I'm at in the next few games."
The Pelicans looked strong through the first half of their return from the All-Star break, building a 20-point lead Friday night at the Indiana Pacers. Indiana scored a season-high 39 points in the third quarter while holding the Pelicans to 23, and the Pacers continued to pull away in the fourth quarter for a 126-111 win.
Davis, who came into Friday averaging 28.1 points and 12.9 rebounds, is playing restricted minutes because of a left shoulder injury sustained Feb. 14 against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Davis played 19 minutes against the Pacers, finishing with 15 points and eight rebounds. Davis scored eight in the first quarter, sat out the second and scored seven more in the third.
The disgruntled Davis, who has asked for a trade and doesn't intend to re-sign with the Pelicans when his contract expires after next season, will be on limited minutes through the rest of the season, according to interim general manager Danny Ferry.
Nothing came of trade talks between the Lakers and Pelicans before this month's trade deadline.
"Things always run smoothly when there's a plan in place," Davis told reporters Friday. "That's what's in place right now. Until something changes, I'm going to do what they tell me to do. Whenever I get subbed in, I'm going to play as hard as I can and try to help the team."
James continues to contribute in a variety of ways for the Lakers. He leads the team in scoring (26.8 points per game), rebounding (8.7) and assists (7.6). He is the only player in the NBA averaging at least 26 points, eight rebounds and seven assists per game.
"I'm just an all-around basketball player," James said. "You can't give me a position. I'm just a ballplayer. Put me on the floor; I'm going to make plays offensively and defensively. I sacrifice my body, sacrifice for my team."
The Lakers will host the Pelicans on Wednesday after their two-game road trip concludes Monday at the Memphis Grizzlies.
Los Angeles and New Orleans met on Dec. 21 at Staples Center, when James had 22 points, 14 assists and 12 rebounds in a 112-104 victory. Davis had 30 points and 20 rebounds in that game.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 23, 2019