LeBron James vs. Zion Williamson Part 2 delivered another back-and-forth battle as the Lakers edged the Pelicans 122-114 at Smoothie King Center.
James recorded his 13th triple-double of the season, while Williamson poured in a career-high 35 points as the pair traded highlight-reel plays all night.
With the win, the Lakers sweep the season series 4-0 and move to 46-13 on the season, while the Pelicans sit at 26-34, three games back of the Memphis Grizzlies for the eighth seed in the West.
Here are the key takeaways from today's game:
LeBron continues to defy father time
At 35 years old in Year 17, LeBron James is showing no signs of slowing down, turning in another powerhouse performance.
With Anthony Davis sidelined with knee soreness, James recorded 34 points, 12 rebounds, and 13 assists, on 14-of21 shooting from the field and 3-of-5 from deep - tying Luka Doncic for the most triple-doubles in the NBA this season.
It was the 33rd 30-point triple-double of James' career, good for third in NBA history behind Oscar Robertson and Russell Westbrook.
30-point triple-doubles after turning 35:- StatMuse (@statmuse) March 2, 2020
3 - LeBron James (including tonight)
2 - Rest of NBA combined (Kobe & Bird) pic.twitter.com/gxA1e2H2vB
James saved his best for the fourth quarter, scoring 13 of his 34 points in the final frame, adding five rebounds and three assists, seizing control of the Lakers offence, playing 11 minutes of the fourth.
He torched the Pelicans on post-ups, getting to the rim with ease and when the double teams came, he found open shooters on the three-point line.
A surgeon with his back to the basket 👑🥼 pic.twitter.com/PiqDuIpPN0- Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) March 2, 2020
With 2:27 left in the fourth, he squared up with Williamson on the three-point line, burying this jab-step triple to put the Lakers up 116-111.
Royal Takeover 👅- Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) March 2, 2020
(📺: @SpectrumSN, ESPN) pic.twitter.com/ye3WbIu6gT
Zion Williamson is on his way to superstardom, but for now LeBron James is still King.
Zion's career game
It seems like every game has been a "career" game for Zion Williamson, but that's just how incredible this 19-year-old has been.
After going for 29 points and six rebounds in his first ever meeting with LeBron James earlier in the week, he out-performed himself in their second matchup. Williamson was a wrecking ball in this one, going for a career-high 35 points shooting 12-for-16 (75.0%) from the field and 11-for-13 (84.6%) from the free throw line.
He did nearly all of his damage in the restricted area, not backing down from solid rim protectors like JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard.
That's :three::zero: for @Zionwilliamson and he gets the and-1! pic.twitter.com/8FoB8pHJtb- New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) March 2, 2020
Williamson has now scored 20-plus points in 11-consecutive games - the longest streak in NBA history from a teenager. He also became the third rookie in NBA history to have three 30-point games within the first 15 games of his career, joining Michael Jordan (6) and Allen Iverson (5).
Zion has more than lived up to the hype thus far.
Kyle Kuzma steps up
In just his seventh start of the season, Kyle Kuzma delivered some strong minutes for the Lakers, recording 20 points in the win.
The 24-year-old had his hands full on the defensive end, guarding Williamson for stretches, but with the Lakers in need of an offensive spark without Anthony Davis, Kuzma answered the call.
Kuzma connected on 8-of-18 from the field and 2-of-8 from the three-point line, delivering when the Lakers needed it most, burying a clutch three-pointer with 3:40 remaining to put the Lakers up 113-109.
Pelicans playoff picture
Just one day after the Western Conference's current No. 8 seed Memphis Grizzlies upset the Lakers, the Pelicans couldn't take care of business at home.
New Orleans is still in hot pursuit of that final playoff spot, but it would have been ideal to pick up at least one win over Los Angeles in their two meetings this week. However, the Pelicans find themselves three games back from the Grizzlies with 22 games remaining in the season. They are also tied with the Sacramento Kings and San Antonio Spurs, who are also three games back from that No. 8 seed.
According to FiveThirtyEight, New Orleans is still the favourite to eventually claim that final playoff spot in the West at a 66% chance. The Kings are next in line at 11% while the Portland Trail Blazers (9%), Grizzlies (9%) and Spurs (5%) are all holding out hope.
The Pelicans have two meetings with the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Dallas Mavericks and the Miami Heat on their upcoming schedule in the week ahead.
Both teams are back in action on Tuesday as the Lakers return to Los Angeles to host the Philadelphia 76ers, while the Pelicans stay at home to take on the Minnesota Timberwolves.
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