The Los Angeles Lakers finished the regular season on a positive note, defeating the New Orleans Pelicans, 110-98, simultaneously capping off a five-game winning streak.
The Pelicans entered the contest extremely short-handed but stayed in the game early on off the hands of Eric Bledsoe and Naji Marshall.
The Lakers received a strong first-quarter outing from Dennis Schroder, who scored 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting, a stark contrast to his last performance.
Though Los Angeles maintained a healthy lead towards the latter part of the second quarter, the Pelicans made a late run to close the gap at halftime. A Marshall buzzer-beater from near the logo made it 63-59, Lakers.
The third quarter saw the Lakers find their groove, mostly towards the ending minutes. Los Angeles’ reserves, primarily Alex Caruso, began converting tough shots while generating turnovers on defense to increase the gap.
New Orleans didn’t have enough juice in the fourth to make a comeback, leading to a Los Angeles win.
Here are three observations from the Lakers’ win:
The Lakers looked sluggish at times, but the play-in tournament awaits
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The Lakers' body language could've looked better, as they mostly seemed ready to wrap things up as soon as possible. It must've been them not controlling their own destiny for the sixth seed. With the Portland Trail Blazers dismantling a Denver Nuggets team who rested all starters in the second half, all hope essentially vanished. The Portland result means the Lakers will now compete in the play-in tournament, with a matchup against the Golden State Warriors waiting. All eyes for Los Angeles must pivot to that game. A win for Los Angeles would certify their spot as the seventh seed. A loss would mean they have to compete for the eighth seed, with the possibility of missing the playoffs in its entirety. Wednesday's matchup will be a colossal one.
LeBron James' ankle is 'good to go'
https://twitter.com/LakersReporter/status/1394135953602617347 A scary moment transpired in the fourth quarter for the Lakers. LeBron James went up for a layup on a fastbreak but came down on his ankle — the one that caused him to miss over 25 games. James immediately walked off towards the locker room, creating a precarious situation for the reigning champions. However, James returned to the sidelines walking with no noticeable limp and could be seen laughing and smiling with teammates. Head coach Frank Vogel stated post-game that James has no issues with the ankle, a boost moving forward. https://twitter.com/SpectrumSN/status/1394132189546106882
Marc Gasol dropped a solid all-around performance
Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports
Marc Gasol is simply a pro's pro. Along with Caruso, Gasol was the first player to come off the Lakers' bench with four minutes remaining in the opening quarter. Vogel opted for Gasol, not Montrezl Harrell, to obtain the backup center minutes, most likely for matchup reasons. Harrell would be undersized against the Pelicans' lengthy centers in Willy Hernangomez and Jaxson Hayes. Gasol played 27 minutes, dropping three points (1-of-4 shooting, 1-of-3 from deep) to go with seven rebounds, four assists, two blocks and a steal. The veteran may not be called upon as a starter with Andre Drummond in the fold, but time after time, Gasol shows he's up to the task whenever necessary.