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McCollum, Pelicans roll over reeling Lakers

LOS ANGELES (AP) – The New Orleans Pelicans are starting to find their stride since acquiring CJ McCollum nearly three weeks ago. Two nights after a surprising win at Phoenix, the Pelicans rolled to their biggest victory over the reeling Los Angeles Lakers.

McCollum scored 22 points while Jonas Valanciunas and Brandon Ingram added 19 apiece in New Orleans’ 123-95 rout yesteday.

The 28-point margin of victory is the largest in franchise history by the Pelicans over the Lakers, surpassing their 139-117 win in 2018.

“A great way to start (coming out of the All-Star break) is to get these two wins,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said.

The Pelicans are 6-4 in their last 10 games. Despite not having Zion Williamson all season, they improved to 25-36 and moved into the 10th and final seed in the Western Conference. While the Pelicans are surging, the Lakers’ free fall continues.

Los Angeles has dropped two straight and five of its last six to fall a season-worst six games under .500 at 27-33. The Lakers are currently the ninth seed and find themselves only two-and-a-half games ahead of Portland, who has the same record as New Orleans but is out of the playoff picture at the moment via tiebreaker.

New Orleans Pelicans guard CJ McCollum shoots as Los Angeles Lakers guard Austin Reaves defends. PHOTO: AP

Los Angeles was seven of 34 on 3-pointers and committed 23 turnovers, which led to 25 New Orleans’ points. The Pelicans also had a sizeable 26-12 advantage in fast-break points.

LeBron James led the Lakers with 32 points but also had seven turnovers, tying a season high. It is James’ 500th game in which he has scored at least 30 points, becoming the third player in NBA history to accomplish that. “I don’t have an answer for tonight. They went into Phoenix, beat them, and obviously beat the doors off us today,” James said.

Los Angeles’ night could be summed up during the third quarter when DeAndre Jordan threw a cross-court pass that hit a fan in the first row of the seats along the baseline.

Fans at crypto.com Arena voiced their displeasure with boos for most of the second half.

“Teams are coming in and playing harder. I believe that’s their scouting report – just play harder than them and see what happens. And it’s working,” said Russell Westbrook, who had 16 points and seven turnovers. “We have to have the determination that’s not going to happen on our home floor or it is going to continue to happen to us.”

All five New Orleans starters scored in double figures, led by McCollum, who has six straight 20-point games. McCollum is averaging 28 points in his seven games with the Pelicans since being acquired from Portland on February 8. He had nine points in the third quarter when New Orleans went on a 26-7 run over four-plus minutes to put the game away.

Valanciunas also had 10 rebounds for his 37th double-double of the season, which is tied for third in the NBA.

Ingram, who played for the Lakers for three seasons, also had eight assists. He had six points during the last six minutes of the first half as the Pelicans went on a 17-4 run to grab a 51-37 lead with 35 seconds remaining. James banked in a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession to pull the Lakers within 51-40 at halftime.

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