Pelicans hold off late Lakers rally for first win, 119-112
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The New Orleans Pelicans were watching another double-digit lead evaporate, with the Los Angeles Lakers using a furious 27-4 run to take a five-point lead.
This time, the Pelicans were ready for the challenge.
They answered with an 11-0 run of their own to beat the Lakers 119-112 on Sunday night for their first victory of the season.
“We have to stop letting off the gas when we have big leads,” said New Orleans center DeMarcus Cousins.
“This is something we’ve done the previous two games and we’re trying to stop it on the fly.”
The Pelicans (1-2) were able to ward off the challenge from the Lakers (1-2) behind 27 points and 17 rebounds from Anthony Davis, and 22 points and 11 rebounds from Cousins.
“We started off the game playing well,” said Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry, who earned his 400th career victory. “Then in the third quarter, our transition defense just wasn’t good.”
The Lakers’ late rally was led by reserves. Jordan Clarkson topped Los Angeles with 24 points, while Kyle Kuzma added 20 points to match guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
Lakers prized rookie Lonzo Ball struggled with his shot (3 of 13) and finished with just eight points, but did contribute 13 assists and eight rebounds.
“I like Lonzo’s aggressiveness, he just didn’t make shots,” said Lakers coach Luke Walton.
The Lakers missed their first eight shots of the game, falling behind by double digits early. New Orleans went up by as many as 22 in the second quarter and was still ahead 94-74 when the Lakers went on their run.
Clarkson and Kuzma scored the last nine points of the third, and then with reserves Julius Randle and Josh Hart aiding the comeback, outscored the Pelicans 18-4 to open the final period.
“We let them back in the game, and that’s on us, but we kept fighting,” Davis said.
New Orleans trailed 110-106 with 4:46 to play when it answered with its 11-0 run. E’Twaun Moore (19 points) and Cousins sparked the comeback, with Jameer Nelson — just signed Sunday — hitting a key 3-pointer.
“I think he already earned his contract,” Gentry said. “He made the biggest shot of the night.”
Pelicans: Signed Nelson, 35, and waived Jordan Crawford. Gentry said the team was uncertain if Nelson would be worked into the starting lineup alongside Holiday, or back him up at the point. “We’ve looked at it and can see both situations being real positive for our team. It’s just a matter of us getting together again and thinking it out and seeing what we feel will be the best,” Gentry said. Nelson was waived by the Nuggets last week.
Lakers: Caldwell-Pope was available after serving a two-game suspension for an arrest on suspicion of driving under the influence. Said Walton: “He’s one of our better shooters. He knows personnel, he’s a great defender. He does a lot of things for us and we’re excited to have him back.” . F Luo Deng, signed prior to last season to a four-year, $72-million deal, was again not activated.
Gentry felt the Pelicans let up their intensity level and let the Lakers back in the game when they led by 20 late. The Lakers had struggled to run, but suddenly found their fast-break game.
Gentry said the answer was easy.
“Yeah, running back,” he said. “It’s pretty simple.
“We did for most of the game, but there was a stretch there we did not.”
Pelicans: Visit Portland on Tuesday.
Lakers: Host Washington on Wednesday.