Lakers lean on lockdown defense: Five takeaways from win over Pelicans

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Dan Woike
·3 min read
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LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 15: Zion Williamson (1), of the Pelicans, has his shot blocked by Anthony Davis.
Lakers forward Anthony Davis (3) blocks a shot by New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson during the Lakers' 112-95 win at Staples Center on Friday. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

Here are five takeaways from the Lakers’ 112-95 win Friday against New Orleans at Staples Center:

1. The Lakers were able to blow out their opponent for the fourth consecutive game, this time coming back from 15 points down in the first half to turn it into a laugher.

New Orleans scored only 37 points in the second half.

“We’ve been good defensively. We’ve been locking in defensively,” Anthony Davis said after the win. “We had a slow start tonight, but we’ve been doing it on the defensive end. I think we’re first in defensive rating and we want to keep that edge. We want to keep [our] mind-set on the defensive end of being scrappy, being physical.”

Even against New Orleans’ bulky frontcourt, the Lakers controlled the game, a very positive sign for the team as it continues to roll.

2. LeBron James didn’t need to play a lot late — a trend over the last week-plus — but he still delivered the most exciting play of the night, a one-handed slam off a missed shot.

Eventually, he won’t be able to do that stuff. But now? He’s still got it.

“I continue to put myself in the best position I can be in. I train my body and I train my mind every single day,” James said. “I come into the arena or the facility and I get in a lot of extra work. Preparing my body, preparing my mind, and hopefully I can continue to do what I’m doing right now at 36 and see what happens. But I tell you, I don’t think I can go to 46.”

3. Everyone was in agreement postgame that Dennis Schroder’s defensive intensity in the second quarter flipped the game for the Lakers, waking them up after a rocky start.

“You saw his energy, man. And right now without fans in Staples Center, which we miss so much, just having a defender like Dennis the Menace did, being able to pick up full court and get two or three consecutive steals to get us out on the break,” James said. “He got us right back into the game. So big-time on his part, man, and he’s been doing it all year for us. It takes the opposing offense out of a lot of stuff that they want to do.”

4. Here’s a stat: The Lakers are the third-best shooting team in the NBA from three-point range at 39.6%, almost five percentage points better than they were last season.

Friday, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma and Alex Caruso combined to make 10 of 13 from deep.

“When you’re playing with guys like Anthony Davis and LeBron James, those guys are perfect complements,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said of his shooters. “We’ll continue to focus on shot quality; as a result we’re shooting well from beyond the arc.”

5. The Pelicans aren’t known as a high-pressure team — they mostly pack the paint on defense. Still, the Lakers committed only eight turnovers Friday with the team’s reserves responsible for just one.

The focus and execution from the reserves allowed the Lakers’ starters to again enjoy the view from the bench in the fourth.

“We can save our legs and let our guys who usually don’t play get in,” Davis said. “And now we’re able to save our bodies and our legs for later on in the season when we really need them.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.