LeBron James, Lakers look to keep Pelicans grounded
The Los Angeles Lakers set a franchise record by winning their first seven road games this season. However, they haven't been as consistent at home, where they will face the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday.
The Lakers pounded the Oklahoma City Thunder 128-99 on Wednesday to remain the NBA's only unbeaten team on the road. But the Lakers, who are an NBA-best 10-3 overall, are 3-3 at home, with losses in two of their past three games at Staples Center.
Against the Thunder, LeBron James had 26 points, seven assists and six rebounds as the Lakers won their fourth straight game. Six Lakers scored in double figures, including Montrezl Harrell, who contributed 21 points and six rebounds off the bench, and Anthony Davis, who collected 18 points and seven rebounds. Dennis Schroder chipped in 14 points, five assists and five rebounds against his former club.
The Lakers averaged more than 121.6 points and allowed 100.3 points per game during the three-game trip, which also featured a pair of blowouts over the Houston Rockets.
Overall, Los Angeles ranked third in the league in points allowed at 105.2 per game through Wednesday.
"I think we're putting the pressure on (opponents') main guys, especially with (Davis), LeBron and Marc Gasol in the paint," Schroder said. "We try to send them as much as possible to the paint. Just being aggressive on them. Me, I've been doing this my whole career, trying to pick up 94 feet and trying to make them tired and get into a set with like 15, 16, 14 seconds on the (24-second) clock. I think that's when I've done my job."
The Pelicans, who have lost four in a row, will have their work cut out for them. They played without three of their top players, Zion Williamson (health and safety protocols), Lonzo Ball (knee) and Eric Bledsoe (eye) in a 111-106 setback to the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday. Williamson has been cleared to play against the Lakers.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker scored a career-high 37 points against the Clippers on 15-for-23 shooting, including making 5-of-8 3-point attempts, and grabbed eight rebounds in his first start this season. He scored 26 in the second half as the Pelicans rallied from double-digit deficits before fading down the stretch.
"He was fantastic," Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy said.
Slowing the game sparked the effort, Alexander-Walker said.
"I think early on I tried to let it come to me," said Alexander-Walker, the 17th overall pick by the Brooklyn Nets in the 2019 amateur draft out of Virginia Tech before being traded to the Atlanta Hawks and then the Pelicans. "As the flow of the game went on, I was just kind of riding its wave, figuring out where to assert myself at. Everything's easier when you compete, so I was just playing to win and it just started to come."
Van Gundy said a 21-4 run by the Clippers to end the first half dictated the outcome. It boosted the Clippers to an 18-point lead at the break.
"It wasn't just that we didn't make buckets -- we couldn't stop them from making any buckets," Van Gundy said. "They dominated both ends in that quarter."
--Field Level Media
Updated January 14, 2021