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Jrue Holiday had 27 points, seven assists and three steals as the New Orleans Pelicans beat the Los Angeles Lakers 128-115 on Saturday at Smoothie King Center in New Orleans.
LeBron James had 27 points, 12 assists, seven rebounds and four steals for the 29-30 Lakers, who have lost three of their last four. The Pelicans improved to 27-34.
The Pels were without All-Star big man Anthony Davis, who sat for what the team designated as rest.
Lakers forward Brandon Ingram led all scorers with 29 points. Pelicans forward Cheick Diallo contributed an 18-point, 10-rebound double-double in 19 minutes off the bench.
Struggling Lakers’ Playoff Hopes Dwindling Fast
Los Angeles has traversed through a turbulent season, as starters have suffered longer-term injuries and the Davis trade rumors have hovered over the team.
The 29-30 Lakers are 3.5 games behind the final Western Conference playoff spot with 23 contests remaining. Simply put, they can’t afford to lose to teams that are playing out the 2018-19 season string, because there aren’t many such opponents left on their schedule.
Arguably, the Lakers only have six matchups remaining against rebuilding teams: New Orleans (twice), the Memphis Grizzlies, the Chicago Bulls, the New York Knicks and the Phoenix Suns.
But chances are Davis, who is averaging 27.8 points and 12.8 rebounds per game, will play in at least one of those New Orleans vs. Los Angeles matchups even though his playing time has been limited recently. So the Pelicans matchups won’t be easy, especially considering New Orleans had little trouble with Los Angeles sans its superstar on Saturday.
The Lakers still need to play the Milwaukee Bucks twice and the Golden State Warriors once, both of whom lead their respective conferences. Overall, 15 of their remaining games are against teams in the top eight of the East or West. Los Angeles also has a five-game Eastern Conference road swing.
Getting Lonzo Ball, who is seventh among all qualified point guards in defensive real plus-minus per ESPN.com, back will help.
But Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times reported that Ball has suffered a bone bruise in addition to his Grade 3 ankle sprain that has kept him out since Jan. 19, and it’s expected that he’ll be out into March. Lakers reporter Mike Trudell also noted that Ball has not returned to the practice court.
In sum, the alarm bells have to be sounding in L.A., since the Lakers entered the night as 6.5-point favorites, per Vegas Insider, and lost by 13.
FiveThirtyEight gave the Lakers a 25 percent chance of making the playoffs entering Saturday, so they aren’t out of it. But time is quickly running out.
Both teams play next on Monday. The Pels will host the Philadelphia 76ers, and the Lakers will stay on the road to face the Memphis Grizzlies.