first_img Lakers, Clippers schedules set for first round of NBA playoffs AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREUCLA alum Kenny Clark signs four-year contract extension with PackersIt was the teams’ second meeting this week, and like the first both James and Williamson were spectacular. The 19-year-old had 35 points and seven rebounds himself, showcasing bruising physicality and show-stopping aerials. James was just a bit better, lifting his team without his leading partner.“We had one of the best players in the league (Davis) out tonight,” coach Frank Vogel said. “That’s what makes the win feel that much better for us.”With Davis sitting out the second game of a back-to-back, the supporting scoring role fell to Kyle Kuzma, who had 20 points as a starter — one of six Lakers in double figures. Former Laker Lonzo Ball nearly had a triple-double of his own for New Orleans, with 19 points, 9 rebounds and 9 assists.Some of the game’s most memorable sequences featured James and Williamson sparring. On one of the few possessions where James guarded Williamson one-on-one, he picked his pocket for a steal as Williamson tried to back him down. After a second-quarter possession where Williamson blew through Kuzma for a dunk, James took the ball and nailed a 40-foot jumper early in the shot clock — a quick answer for the teen phenom that helped Lakers have a two-point lead going into halftime.It’s a shot the Lakers see James practice often, and he even shot from that spot in warm-ups. It’s the kind of play that James has the sense for, and often rises to make. PreviousNew Orleans Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball (2) dribbles the ball down the court in the second half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Sunday, March 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Rusty Costanza)Los Angeles Lakers center JaVale McGee (7) dribble s the ball as New Orleans Pelicans forward Nicolo Melli (20) defends in the second half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Sunday, March 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Rusty Costanza)Los Angeles Lakers center JaVale McGee (7) blocks a shot by New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson (1) in the first half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Sunday, March 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Rusty Costanza) SoundThe gallery will resume insecondsNew Orleans Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry talks to his team in the first half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Sunday, March 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Rusty Costanza)Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) passes the ball between New Orleans Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday (11) and guard Frank Jackson (15) in the first half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Sunday, March 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Rusty Costanza)New Orleans Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday (11) dribbles the ball as Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard (39) defends in the second half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Sunday, March 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Rusty Costanza)New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram (14) goes up for a basket in the second half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Sunday, March 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Rusty Costanza)Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel reacts to a call in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the New Orleans Pelicans in New Orleans, Sunday, March 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Rusty Costanza)New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson (1) is fouled by Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard (39) in the second half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Sunday, March 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Rusty Costanza)Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) dribbles as New Orleans Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday (11) defends in the second half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Sunday, March 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Rusty Costanza)New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram (14) drives to the basket as Los Angeles Lakers guard Danny Green (14) defends in the second half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Sunday, March 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Rusty Costanza)New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson (1) drives to the basket between Los Angeles Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (1) and forward Kyle Kuzma (0) in the second half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Sunday, March 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Rusty Costanza)New Orleans Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball (2) dribbles the ball down the court in the second half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Sunday, March 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Rusty Costanza)Los Angeles Lakers center JaVale McGee (7) dribble s the ball as New Orleans Pelicans forward Nicolo Melli (20) defends in the second half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Sunday, March 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Rusty Costanza)NextShow Caption1 of 12Los Angeles Lakers center JaVale McGee (7) dribble s the ball as New Orleans Pelicans forward Nicolo Melli (20) defends in the second half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Sunday, March 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Rusty Costanza)ExpandNEW ORLEANS — Of LeBron James’ many talents, this one might remain underrated: The man has a sense for the moment.He felt that moment arrive with just over two minutes to go, as he grabbed a rebound securing a triple-double for the night, then seconds later pulled up for a 3-pointer over Zion Williamson — the teenage phenom who many already see as his heir apparent.As James jogged backwards on defense after the clinching basket, he wagged his tongue with the confidence of a man who knows his night’s work is all but done.James and the Lakers (46-13) did not need Anthony Davis in a 122-114 win over the Pelicans on Sunday night at Smoothie King Center. In many ways, James was brilliant enough on his own in a 34-point, 13-assist, 12-rebound night that again lived up to the monstrous billing of the game’s biggest star of today versus the one of tomorrow. While it finished a 4-0 season sweep for the Lakers, the game was strong enough to serve as fodder for the next few weeks as a possible first-round series could take shape. Trail Blazers, Grizzlies advance to NBA play-in game; Suns, Spurs see playoff dreams dashed How athletes protesting the national anthem has evolved over 17 years Trail Blazers beat Grizzlies in play-in, earn first-round series with the Lakers center_img “Nine times out of 10, maybe 10 times out of 10, a lot of guys are not going to contest that shot because they think I’m shooting it from too far,” James said. “So I knew I would have some space.”Neither team had a clear defensive answer for the other’s star. Kuzma started out on Williamson, but was pushed around by the 285-pound forward in the paint, as was every other Laker. On plenty of possessions, the Lakers simply fouled him, fueling a 33-10 free throw disparity in New Orleans’ favor.The best the Lakers could do was try to expose him and make him work on the other end. While Kuzma was bumped off the block often on defense, he tried to drive on Williamson himself, too.“That was kind of my mentality: Go on out there, really attack, make him try to move his feet,” Kuzma said. “And obviously he’s a tough challenge. He’s a big boy, but you know, had to do the same thing on the other end, too.”Likewise, James was unguardable. After he started out the game 8 for 10 from the field, he burned both Josh Hart and Jrue Holiday in one-on-one coverage, and passed to open shooters when the Pelicans double-teamed him. His triple-double was his 13th of the year.Related Articles Coach Alvin Gentry marveled at something James can do that Williamson is still working on: control a game.“You go down and double him, and he finds the open pass for three,” Gentry said. “If you don’t double him, he’s so strong and so skilled that he just lays the ball in the basket. He catches it out in the corner and makes it difficult for you to get there and double-team the ball.“You know,” he added, “I’m just amazed that they talk about anybody other than him for MVP.”The leading story of when these teams met in November — Davis’ return to New Orleans — was a distant memory. Davis sat out the game with right knee soreness, along with teammate Alex Caruso (sore right hamstring). Wearing a gray blazer and white hoodie, he sat on the bench, well out of the limelight. The most interaction he had with his former New Orleans teammates was in the tunnel, where he also briefly received coach Alvin Gentry and president David Griffin.So often the Lakers have hinged their fourth quarter defense around Davis, who they’ve touted as a Defensive Player of the Year candidate. But even without Davis, the Lakers still managed to hold the Pelicans to just 19 points in the fourth quarter on 5 for 18 shooting. In a pinch, JaVale McGee was a capable rim-protecting replacement for Davis, notching a game-best six blocks in his 24 minutes.While James and Williamson made news Tuesday for saying they had not spoken, that seemed to finally happen as they walked off the court: The two men embraced, and James said some words to his young counterpart before departing to fly back to Los Angeles.James said he believes it’s his responsibility to mentor the young players of the league — including Ja Morant, Luka Doncic and Williamson — and that he believes the NBA will be in a better place if he can pass on his knowledge to some of the bright young talents.“Anybody that says that, ‘LeBron, why would he do that while he’s playing?’” he said. “‘It’s a sign of weakness … He’s buddy-buddy with the guys he’s going against.’ Tell them to kiss my ass. All right? With a smile, too.” Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error Lakers practice early hoping to answer all questions last_img read more