The Lakers have a pulse.
LeBron James scored 33 points and the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the New Orleans Pelicans, 125-119, on Wednesday night at Staples Center.
Defense was neither team's strong suit as the two teams matched up for the second time in five days.
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"We knew playing New Orleans that we owed them a little revenge after they killed us there," said Lakers' forward Kyle Kuzma.
The game also marked the first time James and Pelicans' All-Star Anthony Davis took the floor opposite each other since "The Brow," requested a trade at the beginning of February. Despite not being moved at the deadline, most NBA experts still believe Davis will be dealt in the offseason either to the Lakers or the Celtics.
Before the game, Davis received a boisterous ovation from Lakers fans during player introductions.
Despite the ovation from the fans pregame, Davis did not see the court in the fourth quarter, due to a team-mandated minutes restriction, and scored 22 points and grabbed eight rebounds in just 20 minutes of action.
"It's tough not being out on the floor," said Davis. "Especially in crunch time situations. We battled and hit some tough shots near the end."
Former Laker Julius Randle continued to give his old team fits as he led New Orleans with 35 points. In three games against the Lakers this season, Randle has 80 points.
"I just tried to be aggressive from the start," said Randle. "Regardless, I missed some easy shots early I wish I didn't miss. Just be aggressive and get it going."
The Lakers led by as many as 12 points in the fourth quarter, but the pesky Pelicans refused to go away, chipping away at the lead and keeping it close every time L.A. went on a run.
"We just found a way to hang around," said Pelicans' head coach Alvin Gentry. "We had our opportunities, but we couldn't make open shots. LeBron did what LeBron does."
The highlight of the game came midway through the third quarter when the Lakers slammed home four consecutive dunks to ignite the raucous crowd. Kyle Kuzma started the dunk barrage with back-to-back slams before a timeout from the Pelicans.
After the timeout, James received a pass from Rajon Rondo streaking down the lane for a one-handed slam, and the Lakers stole the inbounds pass, finding Kuzma streaking into the paint for another one-handed jam that sent Staples Center into a sea of jubilation.
"Do [Rondo] hit me streaking, with Do's quarterback skills and my wide receiver skills, I was able to get one down the miller," said James of his dunk in the sequence. "Those four dunks were more than eight points. It just shifted the momentum of the game and shifted our intensity. That sequence was pretty good."
However, Darius Miller drained a three-pointer with 1:38 remaining to put the Pelicans within one, 118-117, but after a layup for Brandon Ingram, James drained a one-footed, fadeaway three-pointer from the corner to ground the plucky Pelicans once and for all.
Ingram finished with 23 points, Kuzma had 22 points, Reggie Bullock added 14 and Rondo had 11 with 16 assists, as all five Lakers starters scored in double figures.
"I played a lot of minutes," joked Rondo who started the game for the first time since Feb. 7 against Boston. "When we take pride in defense and get stops, we are able to get out in transition and create mismatches in transition and get open looks."
Jrue Holiday had 19 points and 10 assists for New Orleans, and Frank Jackson chipped in 15 points off the bench.
"Frank's situation is going to be similar to most young guys. He's going to have good games and bad games," said Gentry of Jackson. "I think for us, we have to continue to put him out there...he's getting better in those areas."
The Lakers kept their playoff hopes alive with the victory, but still remain three games behind the Clippers for the eighth and final playoff spot. New Orleans continues to fade in the loaded Western Conference and now find themselves in 13th place, seven games out of a playoff spot.
Notes and Next
Lonzo Ball (left ankle sprain) did not play in the game. Lance Stephenson limped to the locker room early in the fourth quarter and did not return. He was diagnosed with a sprained toe on his left foot and X-rays were negative.
Los Angeles will host the Eastern Conference leading Milwaukee Bucks on Friday night at Staples Center.