NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Jrue Holiday hit five 3-pointers and scored 27 points while Anthony Davis watched from the bench, and the New Orleans Pelicans beat the Los Angeles Lakers 128-115 on Saturday night.
James had 27 points and 12 assists, and Brandon Ingram scored 29 points for Los Angeles. They entered the night three games out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
But the Lakers struggled throughout to keep pace with the Pelicans, who led most of the game and by as many as 20 points.
Reserve forward Cheick Diallo, now in his third season out of Kansas, had one of the better games of his career. He was perfect on eight shots from the field and tied a season high with 18 points. He also grabbed 10 rebounds and twice blocked Ingram near the rim.
James was greeted by a mixture of cheers and boos by a crowd that included a conspicuous number of fans wearing Lakers purple and gold.
But the boos that rained down on the court when James handled the ball left little doubt that New Orleans fans are convinced that James played a role in Davis’ decision to ask for a trade in late January, only months after Davis fired his previous representation and signed with James’ agent, Rich Paul.
James has denied having any influence over Paul’s dealings with Davis, which would represent a violation of the NBA’s tampering rules.
The Pelicans had the flexibility to sit a healthy Davis against the Lakers because they were playing for the second time in two nights, were at home and not on national television.
“If you’re looking along the lines of having any significance because we’re playing the Lakers that had nothing to do with it,” New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry said before the game. “If we were playing the Baltimore Claws we would sit him out that game too, OK?
“It gives us an opportunity to minimize the minutes that he’s going to be playing and as a team we think that’s best for our franchise right now.”
The Lakers aggressively tried to acquire Davis before the Feb. 7 trade deadline. New Orleans, however, was uninterested in dealing Davis before this offseason, when more teams, including Boston, are expected to be in position to make stronger trade offers.
While Davis spent the game on the bench wearing a dark suit, the players in uniform for New Orleans lit up the scoreboard and filled the stat sheet against a Lakers team needing a strong finish to the regular season to make the playoffs.
Lakers: Committed 23 turnovers, leading to 23 Pelicans points. … Shot 54.3 percent (44 of 81), including 10 of 29 (34.5 percent) from 3-point range. … Kyle Kuzma scored 16 points and JaVale McGee had 10. … Lakers reserves scored 24 points combined.
Pelicans: Shot 52.1 percent (50 of 96), including 15 of 40 from 3-point range. .. Reserve guard Ian Clark had 17 points and Elfrid Payton scored 14, one night after he scored 15 in his return from a right ankle sprain that sidelined him nine games. … Pelicans reserves combined for 42 points.
Lakers: At Memphis on Monday night.
Pelicans: Host Philadelphia on Monday night.