Lakers Advance, Showdown with Nuggets Looms

The Los Angeles Lakers defeated the New Orleans Pelicans Tuesday night, 110-106, setting up a rematch of last year’s Western Conference Finals against the Denver Nuggets.

Just two days after defeating the Pelicans to finish the regular season as the No. 8 team in the West, Los Angeles built an 18-point lead in the third quarter before holding off a late rally from the Pels. LeBron James finished with 23 points, nine rebounds and nine assists while going a perfect 10-of-10 from the line, and D’Angelo Russell drained five threes en route to a 21-point night.

Ahead of last night’s game, many people argued that Los Angeles should essentially throw the game as a means to avoid playing Denver in the first round. Coach Darvin Ham heard the noise and didn’t agree with the strategy.

“There was a report of what?” Ham said to a reporter. “Insane asylum sources say?”

James, meanwhile, acknowledged that his team has a challenge on its hands moving forward.

“It’s the defending champion. They know what it takes. They know how to win. They’ve been extremely dominant on their home floor over the last few years. They’ve got an MVP on their team. They’ve got a closer on their team. They’ve got high-level players, high-IQ players. And they’ve got a hell of a coach,” James said.

“So, we have to play mistake-free basketball. Make it tough on them. They’re going to try to make it tough on us, obviously. But if we can play as great of a game as we can play, and they’re going to play as great of a game as they play, it’s going come down to one or two possessions. And we’ll see who executes then.”

Anthony Davis, who admitted after the game that he was still dealing with back spasms, echoed James’ sentiments but also believes the Lakers are in a good place.

“I think we’re clicking at the right time,” Davis said. “Guys are playing well. Guys are very confident. Guys are feeling good. And we’re going to need it — especially against Denver.”