The Los Angeles Lakers are beginning a four-game road trip tonight before the All-Star break, as they travel to the South to play the New Orleans Pelicans. Kobe Bryant turned back the clock on Tuesday night, scoring 38 points and sealing the victory with clutch shots down the stretch. Kobe Bryant is expected to play tonight after his throwback performance against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Pelicans were projected to make the playoffs at the beginning of the season, but they have underwhelmed thus far in the season and are five games behind the Portland Trailblazers for the eighth playoff seed in the Western Conference. The Pelicans have been hit with the injury bug this season, so the Lakers have a chance to steal one in New Orleans tonight.
Kobe Bryant and Jordan Clarkson started the game strong, scoring four points apiece to help the Lakers jump to an early 11-2 advantage. Kobe maintained hot shooting from the field, knocking down a three-pointer to give him nine points and the Lakers an eleven point lead five minutes into the game. The Pelicans began to heat up from the field, scoring five straight field goals after missing eight of their first nine, but the Lakers still led 24-12 after another Kobe Bryant field goal with 3:50 to play in the game. The Pelicans came storming back with a 14-0 run to take their first lead of the game. Kobe scored 11 points and grabbed four rebounds and the Lakers led by as many as 11, but at the end of the first quarter, they trailed the Pelicans 26-28.
Nick Young started the second quarter hot from the field, scoring eight straight points and giving the Lakers the three-point lead two minutes into the second quarter. The Lakers did not have an answer for Ryan Anderson, who had 10 points on 4-5 shooting from the field, including a long distance three-pointer. The Lakers answered the Pelicans hot shooting with a 17-2 run that was capped by back-to-back post fadeaway jumpers by D’Angelo Russell that gives them a 12 point lead midway through the second quarter. Jordan Clarkson nailed a pull-up three in semi-transition to give him 16 points and the Lakers a 13 point advantage with 2:49 remaining in the half. The Lakers shot an impressive 56 percent from the field and led the Pelicans 59-48 at halftime.
The Lakers started the second half slowly, but Jordan Clarkson made a pull-up jumper three minutes into the third to give him 18 points on 100 percent shooting from the field. Anthony Davis began to heat up with a layup in transition that gave him 23 points in the game and cut the Lakers lead down to eight points with 6:06 remaining in the third quarter. The Lakers and the Pelicans exchanged baskets for the next few minutes, but Davis scored his 13th point of the third quarter, and the Lakers lead 69-63 with 3:12 to play in the third. Anthony Davis had 31 points after the three quarters, but the Lakers led the Pelicans 79-69 going into the fourth quarter.
Early in the fourth quarter, D’Angelo Russell delivered a beautiful bounce pass to Tarik Black, who then exploded to the rim for a two-handed dunk for the Lakers first field goal of the quarter. Things got sloppy on both ends of the floor, but the Lakers maintained a 10 point lead with just under nine minutes to play in the game. Kobe Bryant checked back into the game and immediately drilled back-to-back three-pointers to push the Lakers lead back up to 12 with 5:32 remaining in the fourth quarter. Anthony Davis blew a wide-open dunk that would have cut the Lakers lead to five points, but Russell finished on the other end to give the Lakers a nine-point lead with just under three minutes left in the game. A Ryan Anderson dunk over Kobe and an Anthony Davis dunk off of a broken play cut the Lakers lead to just three with 1:18 to play. Kobe instantly redeemed himself with yet another clutch three-pointer to add to his resume and the Lakers led by six with 58 seconds remaining in regulation. The Pelicans scored four straight points, but they waited 15 seconds to intentionally foul Kobe Bryant, who only made one of two free throws to give the Lakers a three-point lead with 5.9 seconds on the clock. Jrue Holiday got a good look at a three, but air balled wide left. Final score: Lakers 99 Pelicans 96.