Less than two minutes into the first game of the Lakers’ latest trip, they lost energetic shooting guard Nick Young to a strained right Achilles’ tendon.
On whether that explained their lackluster first half or not, there was some dissent, but it undoubtedly complicated matters.
The Lakers gave up 65 points in the first half, and lost to the New Orleans Pelicans, 105-88, at Smoothie King Center on Tuesday night. The loss, during which New Orleans led from start to finish, dropped the Lakers to 9-10 while the Pelicans improved to 7-12, having won five of their last seven games.
“On the road, once you get a deficit like that you’ve gotta play perfect if you even want a chance to come back,” said Lakers Coach Luke Walton, whose team trailed by 24 points at halftime. “It’s just too hard. You gotta go into these games with a much stronger desire to play defense.”
Pelicans forward Anthony Davis scored 41 points with 16 rebounds and three assists. Guard Jrue Holiday, a UCLA product, added 22 points and five assists.
The Lakers recovered the services of power forward Julius Randle, who contributed 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Lakers backup guard Lou Williams added 16 points and center Timofey Mozgov scored 10 with nine rebounds.
The game was never competitive.
The Lakers played without starting point guard D’Angelo Russell, then lost their other starting guard, Young, 1 minute 50 seconds into the game. Several Lakers gathered around Young as he fell to the ground near the scorer’s table. Walton thought the injury left the Lakers “stunned.”
“You never know with Nick,” Randle said. “I didn’t know if he was acting. I didn’t know if he was really hurt. Everything was dramatized with my man. I didn’t know what was really going on. It looked serious.”
Larry Nance Jr., Metta World Peace and Williams helped carry Young off the court and into the locker room. He will have an MRI exam on Wednesday in Chicago, where the Lakers flew Tuesday night.
Jordan Clarkson replaced Young with the first unit, disrupting the second unit on which the Lakers have come to rely.
“I shot like butt tonight,” said Clarkson, who made four of 14 shots and one of seven three-point attempts.
In truth, the Lakers’ shooting struggles weren’t only confined to Clarkson, especially in the first half. They shot 39.5% in the half and made three of 18 three-point attempts. Meanwhile, the Pelicans had 34 first-half rebounds to the Lakers’ 16. They made 47.8% of their first-half shots. Davis and Holiday both hit double figures before halftime.
“From the start of the game we allowed them to do whatever they wanted defensively,” Lakers forward Luol Deng said. “They got into a good rhythm and got confidence.”
The Lakers played much better defense in the second half. They held the Pelicans to 38.1% shooting and out-rebounded them by 11. They outscored New Orleans 47-40.
“We kept switching in the second half, forcing them into tough plays,” Clarkson said. “We had 40 in the second half, but on the road you can’t do that, it’s just too late. You can’t spot nobody 60 in the first half. It’s hard when you’re not making shots on the road. They hit us right in the mouth.”