Lakers lock up 7th seed, sets up rematch with defending champion Nuggets

The Los Angeles Lakers secured their spot in the NBA Playoffs with a hard-fought victory over the New Orleans Pelicans, prevailing 110-106 in a Wednesday morning (Manila time) clash at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans.

LeBron James showcased his superstar prowess for the Lakers, coming tantalizingly close to a triple-double with 23 points, nine assists, and nine rebounds.

While the Lakers held a comfortable 11-point lead, 89-78, in the fourth quarter following a clutch 3-pointer from D’Angelo Russell, the Pelicans mounted a fierce comeback fueled by the exceptional performance of Zion Williamson.

Williamson managed to level the score at 95 with just over three minutes remaining, but his efforts seemed to take a toll as he appeared to sustain an injury after reaching the 40-point mark, leading him to retreat to the locker room in frustration.

The game remained tightly contested, with both teams trading baskets and deadlocked at 99 apiece with 1:31 left on the clock. A crucial alley-oop play finished by Anthony Davis gave the Lakers a slim 101-99 advantage, and a pivotal 3-pointer from Russell extended their lead to 104-100 with just under a minute to play.

Although CJ McCollum’s jumper brought the Pelicans within striking distance at 102-104, Davis and Austin Reaves sealed the victory for the Lakers with clutch free throws.

Russell contributed 21 points and six assists, while Davis chipped in 20 points and grabbed 15 rebounds. Meanwhile, Williamson’s sensational performance included 40 points, 11 rebounds, and five assists in a 36-minute outing, with Trey Murphy III adding 12 points for the Pelicans.

The Lakers are now set to face off against the reigning NBA champions, the Denver Nuggets, in the first round of the playoffs, setting the stage for a highly anticipated rematch of last season’s Western Conference Finals. On the other hand, the Pelicans will await the outcome of the play-in game between the Golden State Warriors and the Sacramento Kings.

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