Anthony Davis scores 46 as Lakers’ present trumps their past in win over Pelicans

  • Lakers forward Anthony Davis extends himself to catch a lob pass before finishing with a dunk, as Pelicans center Jaxson Hayes, second from left, and guard E’Twaun Moore, right, watch along with Lakers’ Danny Green during the first half of Friday’s game at Staples Center. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers guard Danny Green, left, shoots as New Orleans Pelicans guard Josh Hart defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

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  • New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram, left, is fouled while shooting by Los Angeles Lakers center JaVale McGee during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram, center, shoots as Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis, left, and center JaVale McGee defend during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram, right, shoots as Los Angeles Lakers center JaVale McGee defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • New Orleans Pelicans center Jaxson Hayes, left, shoots as Los Angeles Lakers guard Danny Green defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis, left, talks with forward LeBron James, center, as New Orleans Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball walks nearby during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James, left, tries to drive past New Orleans Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James, right, shoots as New Orleans Pelicans forward Derrick Favors defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James celebrates after scoring during the first half of the team’s NBA basketball game against the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis dunks during the first half of the team’s NBA basketball game against the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis, right, celebrates with forward LeBron James after dunking as New Orleans Pelicans guard JJ Redick looks away during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Actor Will Ferrell watches the first half of an NBA basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James, right, tries to drive past New Orleans Pelicans center Jaxson Hayes, front left, as guard E’Twaun Moore defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Singer Adam Levine watches the first half of an NBA basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis, center, grabs a rebound away from New Orleans Pelicans guard JJ Redick, right, as guard Lonzo Ball watches during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. The Lakers won 123-113. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis yells after scoring during the second half of the team’s NBA basketball game against the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. The Lakers won 123-113. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • New Orleans Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball, left, dunks as Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. The Lakers won 123-113. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • LaVar Ball watches the second half of an NBA basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. The Lakers won 123-113. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • New Orleans Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball, right, tries to get the ball from Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. The Lakers won 123-113. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • New Orleans Pelicans center Jaxson Hayes, right, shoots as Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. The Lakers won 123-113. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • New Orleans Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday, left, reaches for the ball held by Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. The Lakers won 123-113. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James, right, talks with New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson, left, and guard Lonzo Ball during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. The Lakers won 123-113. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

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LOS ANGELES — As Brandon Ingram meandered off the Staples Center court, having canned dozens of warm-up shots about an hour before tip-off, a small gathering of fans draped over the barrier of the visitor’s tunnel, holding out gold jerseys with Ingram’s No. 14.

He didn’t hesitate, grabbing the black markers and scribbling his signature, nonchalantly revisiting relics of his once-hopeful past.

Before LeBron James and Anthony Davis, it was Ingram’s jersey that sold here. Staples Center once swelled with cheers for the slender forward and his fellow young teammates. It was a dark era, but Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart represented promise ahead for the down-and-out Lakers franchise.

It didn’t work out. The young core was shipped to New Orleans this summer in the interest of turning hope into actual results. And that tradeoff was the underpinning of Friday night’s 123-113 Lakers victory over the pieces of the puzzle they once thought would fit.

The potential of that trio could not measure up to the tangible, present-day dominance of Davis, who again torched his former team for 46 points on 15-for-21 shooting, muscling in the paint for 13 rebounds and plucking away three steals. He also was perfect at the free-throw line, sinking all 13 of his attempts.

The Lakers (28-7), who have won four in a row following their season-high four-game losing streak, again played it tighter than they had to, frittering away a 24-point lead to just single digits in the final minutes. But nothing summed up the evening’s affairs better than a dunk Davis finished on Ingram’s head while securing victory down the stretch.

“He’s the recipient of our flow on offense, because he’s just as fast as anybody on the floor, more dynamic than anybody that’s on the floor, does it better playing in the interior, playing in the exterior,” James said. “He can do so many things.”

And he’s a Laker because of the summer trade that sent Ingram, Ball and Hart away.

The sellout crowd gave one more big salute to the former Lakers, cheering Ball in his starting lineup introduction, then getting even louder for Ingram – who is enjoying a season as a borderline All-Star. In the first timeout of the first quarter, the team played a tribute video for the trio, with a montage of the silver lining of three losing seasons.

” I appreciate the fans,” Ingram said. “The fans get us going every single night. For it to be an opposing team to give us love like that, I give respect and love to them also.”

But any Lakers fan who witnessed the night’s proceedings would find it impossible to second-guess the trade that sent them away.

Davis punched one of the most impressive baskets of the season in the first quarter, reaching back almost impossibly far for a one-handed alley-oop as the Lakers sprinted to a 42-point first quarter. James joked that Danny Green, who threw the off-target pass behind his head, was “one of the worst alley-oop passers” in NBA history.

But Davis’ most dominant frame was the third, when he scored 19 of the Lakers’ 31 points. He had scored 41 points in the first meeting with the Pelicans, but on a force-feeding of post-up possessions. These 46 came on dunks, above-the-key 3-pointers and all organic shots.

“I think it was just more flowing, we just run the offense and the ball happened to come to me in positions where i was able to score,” Davis said. “I’m finding my way.”

Whereas the young core’s fit with James was tenuous, LeBron looked comfortable at the controls with Davis as his chief weapon. Aside from 17 points, James racked up 15 assists – eight in the first quarter alone – to remain the pace-setter for the rest of the league.

That wasn’t to say the young Pelicans weren’t frisky against their old team. With his father LaVar watching in a courtside seat, Ball had 23 points for the first back-to-back 20-point games of his career. Ingram added 22, helping fuel a fast-break attack that scored 27 points on a Lakers team that was beaten down the floor more than they would like.

But the veteran supporting cast that replaced them had a few bright spots, namely Green who scored 17 of his 23 points (and made five of his 3-pointers) in the first quarter alone. The Lakers were 14 for 29 from 3-point range for the night.

The Pelicans are still awaiting their next star big man: rookie Zion Williamson did some pregame work on the Staples Center court, but he has not yet been cleared to play after being drafted No. 1 overall out of Duke. As they languish in 14th place in the Western Conference, hope will have to keep them nourished through a seemingly long rebuild.

The Lakers? That time is over. They’re living gloriously in the present.

“You’ve got Bron and A.D.,” Ball said. “That’s going to be hard for anybody.”

46 PTS | 15-21 FGM | 13 REB@AntDavis23 powers the @Lakers over NOP for their 4th W in a row. #LakeShow pic.twitter.com/mCZNHdTXpw

— NBA (@NBA) January 4, 2020

AD with the one-handed 🔨! #LakeShow pic.twitter.com/5qAEXOiEWp

— Spectrum SportsNet (@SpectrumSN) January 4, 2020

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Whicker: Lakers fall victim to Joel Embiid’s history lesson

LOS ANGELES — It rhymes with indeed, or friend in need.

The NBA has enough under-25 stars to fill up several red carpets. Maybe the league can loan Joel Embiid to the NFL, or some other distressed business that seeks a savior.

On Wednesday night, in a building that has celebrated two NBA championships, two Stanley Cups, Adele and Taylor Swift, Embiid stapled a new page in league history. He also punched a hole in the Lakers, or at least in their delusions that they’re anywhere close to catching up to the times.

Ordinarily you’d need a whole frontcourt to put together this numbers mosaic. Embiid, 23, had 46 points, 15 rebounds, seven blocked shots, seven assists and shot 14 for 20 for Philadelphia, which held off the Lakers 115-109.

Nobody has ever gotten 46-15-7-7 before, and Embiid also hit three 3-pointers, including one that made it 7-2 and activated every other weapon he has.

He was a one-man battalion of drives from the wing, pump-and-go attacks from out front, outside shots, and post moves, including one rubber-band-man maneuver that seemed to take five minutes and drew oohs from the Sixers fans and resigned aahs from the Lakers crowd. If you saw it and thought Hakeem Olajuwon finally had a descendant, you were right.

“I had been watching a little bit of Hakeem and I thought I’d try that move, that duck-under, shimmy-shimmy,” Embiid said.

Joel Embiid is putting on a SHOW on ESPN!

44 PTS / 14 REB / 7 AST / 7 BLK pic.twitter.com/AdQY8OOstg

— NBA (@NBA) November 16, 2017

The Sixers are now 8-6 after losing 253 games in their previous four seasons. Much of that was intentional, but much of it was also due to Embiid’s inabiliity to overcome foot, back and knee injuries. He played 31 games last year and never on back-to-backs. In two games in three days at Staples Center, he turned in 70 minutes. The 76ers’ discretion has produced uncommon valor.

“I love Staples Center,” Embiid said, grinning. “I wanted to come in here and put on a show, which I did. I hadn’t been aggressive, and I didn’t do very well against Golden State and their team defense. The Clippers (on Monday) didn’t double-team me until late in the game. Tonight I wanted to attack from the beginning.

“They kept throwing me the ball and I kept finding new ways to score. I went to the free-throw line (16 for 19) and that’s what I was best at. Me going to the free-throw line, you know, guys really don’t know what to do after that.”

Although Embiid was drafted in 2014, with the third pick, this 46-pointer came in only his 43rd career game. If he keeps outscoring his experience, he might be something.

“He’s just a beast, like I’ve been saying,” said Ben Simmons, the first overall pick in 2016 who missed all of last season with a foot injury and now teams with Embiid in what really could become the league’s most dynamic two-man game. Simmons had 18 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds.

“Yeah, and he (Embiid) took one of my rebounds,” Simmons said.

“I did?” Embiid said. “Well, I wanted to get that triple-double with blocked shots, like (MIami’s) Hassan Whiteside. Don’t worry, Ben will get a lot of triple-doubles.”

Simmons is 6-foot-10, gets the ball downcourt like a bullet train, sees everything, and needs only to sharpen his shot to become a future MVP candidate himself. You say an NBA champion needs 2½ superstars? Simmons and Embiid might add up to somewhere north of two.

“I think we can make the playoffs,” Simmons said. “That’s been our goal all along.”

“The fact that Joel played 70 minutes here in these two games is a great number,” said Brett Brown, the 76ers’ coach. “It’s a tribute to him and to our medical staff. He missed training camp and that set him back, and we were saying we wouldn’t see his best until Thanksgiving. Well, maybe Thanksgiving came early.”

“Embiid is a heck of a player, sometimes you just tip your hat,” Lakers coach Luke Watlon said. “He was hitting 18-foot post-ups. When that happens he’s going to be a problem.”

The Lakers took a 24-11 gut punch in the first 5½ minutes but never quit scrambling to catch up and, in fact, led 100-98 on Brandon Ingram’s jumper. They worked for 22 offensive rebounds and 27 second-chance points, and they persuaded Philadelphia into 16 turnovers.

But they missed 24 of 27 3-point attempts, and Lonzo Ball rarely looked as if he belonged on this court. Again, he was benched in the fourth quarter and missed eight of nine shots, most of them by a lot.

And when the Lakers needed organization and structure at the end of the game, it wasn’t there. Brown praised Ingram and Kyle Kuzma, likening them to Embiid and Simmons in the way the Lakers have “identified keepers, just like us.”

But even if the Lakers had found cogent offense, they still needed to contest the uncontestable

“Joel was just dominant,” Brown said. “We’re always trying to play with pace and movement. But sometimes we had to face a choice of playing with pace and movement or giving it to Joel Embiid. And giving it to Joel Embiid was the right choice tonight.”

Indeed.

Euro-Biid on ESPN. #HereTheyCome pic.twitter.com/uqU7xKkgMu

— NBA (@NBA) November 16, 2017

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