The road ends here.
That message is written in massive letters on the outside of the Superdome, the building that will host the Final Four next weekend.
Sunday, though, the message could’ve been directed at the Lakers — a team desperately trying to be one of the Western Conference’s final four into the postseason.
Those chances, though, took a significant hit, a second-half collapse costing the Lakers a chance to build precious cushion in the standings and moving them closer to falling out of the picture.
Despite a 39-point game from LeBron James, the Lakers lost 116-108 to New Orleans, blowing a 23-point lead and squandering all the momentum they had built by showing signs of life over the previous four games.
Former Lakers forward Brandon Ingram led New Orleans with 26 points, the Lakers’ defensive intensity and execution rapidly eroding as the game went on.
The team now trails New Orleans by a half-game for ninth in the West and leads San Antonio by just one game for 10th — the final spot in the NBA’s play-in tournament. The Pelicans hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Lakers, having won twice in the three-game season series, which concludes Friday at Crypto.com Arena.
The Lakers opened the game on a 12-0 run, James flying around the court after five days of rest leading into one of the biggest games of the season. Red hot from deep, James made six of nine three-pointers to push the Lakers ahead by as many as 23 and they held a 69-49 advantage, at halftime.
James even played through a scary ankle injury in the first half, though his mobility was noticeably impacted for the rest of the game.
Yet in the final minutes of the half, the Lakers let their foot off the gas. The Pelicans made a couple of uncontested shots, built a littlemomentum and set the stage for their second-half comeback.
The Pelicans outscored the Lakers 41-25 in the third quarter, rookie Trey Murphy III scoring 16 points in just eight minutes while the Lakers turned the ball over five times, leading to 11 New Orleans points.
New Orleans pushed ahead in the fourth as the Lakers never recaptured the energy and effectiveness they showed early, their season in serious trouble with just eight games remaining.
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