LOS ANGELES — LeBron James scored 33 points, Brandon Ingram added 23 and the Los Angeles Lakers weathered strong performances by Anthony Davis and Julius Randle for a 125-119 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday night (Thursday, Manila time).
Davis had 22 points and eight rebounds in the first three quarters after getting a warm pregame reception from Lakers fans who eagerly followed Los Angeles' fruitless pursuit of a trade for the superstar forward earlier this season.
Randle scored 35 points against his former team, but couldn't finish a comeback against James and the Lakers' new core during New Orleans' fifth loss in seven games.
The Lakers had a 12-point lead early in the fourth quarter before the Pelicans trimmed it to 118-117 on Darius Miller's 3-pointer with 1:38 to play. After Ingram hit a layup, Reggie Bullock forced a turnover by Jrue Holiday before James drilled a one-footed 3-pointer from the corner with 31 seconds left.
Kyle Kuzma scored 22 points and Rajon Rondo had 16 assists for the Lakers, who avenged a loss in New Orleans four days earlier with just their third win in nine games overall.
Davis sat out the fourth quarter again under his minutes restriction, but the Staples Center crowd gave a loud ovation during player introductions to the perennial All-Star who nearly ended up playing for the home team in this matchup — and still could someday soon.
The Lakers spent several weeks attempting to make a deal for Davis, whose trade request last month threw both of these teams into upheaval.
While the Pelicans were forced into a future that won't include the best player in franchise history, practically everyone on the Lakers' roster outside of James spent the next few weeks reading daily speculation about their possible departure for New Orleans in a trade.
The Pelicans elected to hold onto Davis at the deadline despite the Lakers' strenuous efforts to pry him away, but the saga is likely to continue this summer. Until then, the Lakers will continue their pursuit of a playoff berth without Davis, who doesn't seem bothered on the court by his unclear future.
The Pelicans elected to sit Davis for the entire game last week during the Lakers' visit to New Orleans, which won anyway. Davis got only 21 minutes at Staples.
Randle had an outstanding night, finishing just two points off his career high. The big man also appeared to have words with the Lakers' coaching staff after nearly every one of his baskets, although the smiles on the Lakers assistants' faces indicated it might have been good-natured.
Randle spent his first four NBA seasons with the Lakers before leaving as a free agent last summer. The emotions from his departure shouldn't still be raw for Randle: He already had his homecoming game at Staples on Dec. 21, getting 21 points and eight rebounds in a loss.
Pelicans: Frank Jackson had 15 points in his highest-scoring performance of February. ... Holiday added 19 points. ... Miller scored all of his 11 points in the fourth quarter.
Lakers: Lance Stephenson limped to the locker room early in the fourth quarter and didn't return. He sprained the second toe on his left foot, but X-rays were negative. The veteran finished with nine points and five rebounds. ... Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who was an even bigger superstar than Davis when he demanded a trade and ended up with the Lakers in his prime, was in attendance. ... Other fans near courtside included Adam Sandler, Todd Gurley, Halsey, Pat Mahomes and David Beckham, who high-fived Dean Tran after the Lakers fan hit a half-court shot to win $100,000 before the fourth quarter began.
Pelicans: At Phoenix on Friday.
Lakers: Host Milwaukee on Friday.