Pelicans overwhelm LeBron-less Lakers

L.A. loses third straight game without LeBron James
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Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel changed the starting lineup with LeBron James and Anthony Davis still out due to injury.

The Lakers started two-way contract player Devontae Cacok for the first time this year. Cacok was the starting center, along with Markieff Morris and Kyle Kuzma at forwards and Dennis Schröder and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope at the guard spots.

However, the adjustment in the starting lineup did not pay dividends, as the Pelicans pounded the ball inside and boat raced the undermanned Lakers 128-111 in a road contest for Los Angeles.

The Lakers lost their third straight game and nine of their last 15 games. L.A. dropped to 28-16 on the season, and are tied with the Los Angeles Clippers for fourth place in the Western Conference.

New Orleans improved to 19-24 on the year.

The Lakers looked to shoot more three pointers with James and Davis out, and has some success, finishing 17 for 36 (47 percent) from beyond the arc.

“We do need to shoot more threes,” Vogel told reporters before the game. “But it’s really about the quality of threes, and it always has been. I don’t think that’s any different right now. What we have to do is have to stop forcing it at the rim, stop settling for contested mid-range pull ups and redefine our shot profile a little bit.

“We really want to be a team that attacks the basket and lives at the free throw line, play extra pass basketball and punish teams with weakside threes. It’s just something where if we can get this group to play the right way offensively in terms of working for a great shot in those types of possessions, we can win games in the short term and it will benefit us when Anthony and LeBron come back.”

The smaller Lakers had no answer for Zion Williamson (27 points, nine rebounds, six assists), along with former Lakers Brandon Ingram (36 points, four assists) and Josh Hart (15 rebounds, five assists, five steals, two points) inside. 

Former Laker Lonzo Ball did not play due to a hip pointer.

The Pelicans finished with a 62-32 points advantage in the paint.

New Orleans led by 13 points at halftime and extended that lead to as many as 30 points in the second half.

The Lakers dropped to 0-3 when James, Davis and Marc Gasol are not in the lineup.

Top player: Kyle Kuzma played solid, finishing with 16 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. Kuzma shot 4 for 8 from the 3-point line.

What I liked: Wesley Matthews finished 3 for 6 from the three-point line and finished with 11 points.

What I didn’t like: The Lakers were outscored 18-10 in fastbreak points and outrebounded 59-44 by the Pelicans. 

Injuries: The Lakers said James travelled back to Los Angeles for a doctor’s appointment for his right, high-ankle sprain. Vogel said Marc Gasol is with the team for their two-game road trip and working in his reconditioning for his eventual return to the floor. Gasol has missed the last eight games. Anthony Davis (right calf strain) worked out and got up some shots before the game.

They said it: “He was just one of the original, mid-air acrobats. The creativity that he showed in his game is something that many spoke of. If you have someone like Dr. J saying that he used to try and emulate Elgin and his mid-air moves, I think that speaks volumes.” – Vogel on the passing of Lakers legend Elgin Baylor.