LeBron James, Lakers edge Pelicans, clinch playoff bid

LeBron James recorded 23 points, nine rebounds and nine assists and the Los Angeles Lakers clinched a playoff berth with a 110-106 victory over the host New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday night.

D’Angelo Russell added 21 points for the seventh-seeded Lakers, who led by as many as 18 points in the play-in game. Anthony Davis had 20 points, 15 rebounds and three blocked shots for Los Angeles.

The Lakers will face second-seeded Denver in the first round of the playoffs, with Game 1 on Saturday in Colorado. The Nuggets are the defending NBA champions.

New Orleans star Zion Williamson scored 40 points on 17-of-27 shooting and collected 11 rebounds before exiting with 3:13 left in the game due to an undisclosed injury.

Trey Murphy III added 12 points for the Pelicans and Brandon Ingram scored 11.

New Orleans receives a second chance to claim a playoff spot on Friday night. The Pelicans will host the winner of the late Tuesday game between the Golden State Warriors and the Sacramento Kings.

Davis scored a tiebreaking basket to put the Lakers ahead by two with 1:23 left. Larry Nance Jr. split two free throws 15 seconds later to move the Pelicans within 101-100. Russell then drilled a corner 3-pointer to give Los Angeles a four-point edge with 50.3 seconds to play.

CJ McCollum made a short jumper in the lane to pull New Orleans within 104-102 with 38.2 seconds left. Davis hit two free throws with 14.8 seconds remaining as the Lakers took a four-point lead and held off the charge.

Austin Reaves scored 16 points and Rui Hachimura added 13 for the Lakers, who shot 41.7 percent from the field and made 14 of 35 (40 percent) from 3-point range.

New Orleans hit 46.2 percent of its shots, including 9 of 30 (30 percent) from behind the arc. Jose Alvarado, Herbert Jones and Nance added 10 points apiece.

The Lakers led by 18 in the third quarter, but Murphy and Alvarado each buried a 3-pointer during a 9-0 surge as the Pelicans moved within 91-89 with 5:41 left in the game.

New Orleans caught the Lakers at 93 when Alvarado’s alley-oop pass was slammed through the net by Williamson with 3:53 left.

Williamson scored on a driving hoop 34 seconds later to knot the score at 95 but was injured on the play. He displayed his frustration before heading to the locker room.

Los Angeles held a 10-point halftime lead and soon used a 10-2 spurt to open up a 73-55 lead. Reaves capped it with a basket with 6:53 left in the third quarter.

Los Angeles led 83-76 entering the fourth quarter.

James and Russell scored 15 points apiece as the Lakers led 60-50 at halftime. Williamson had 20 points and eight rebounds in the half for New Orleans.