LOS ANGELES — LeBron James had 21 points in his first game since becoming the NBA’s career scoring leader, and Anthony Davis had 28 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in the new-look Los Angeles Lakers’ 120-102 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday night.
D’Angelo Russell had 21 points and seven assists during his warm welcome home to the Lakers, who won for just the second time in six games. Los Angeles’ five new players all made their home debuts after last week’s busy trade deadline, and the Lakers never trailed in one of this up-and-down team’s most impressive performances of the season.
“There was a huge emphasis on getting this win,” Davis said. “Guys came out and played with a lot of energy and urgency. … It was only our first game together, but it looked good.”
James only had to play a season-low 29 minutes after taking the previous three games off to rest his sore left ankle and foot immediately after he surpassed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s record Feb. 7.
“I feel really good about what we’ve got brewing, but we need to lock in,” James said. “It’s the first time we’ve all been on the floor together, so we wanted to see what it looks like, and the first 40 minutes looked pretty good.”
Russell’s debut was actually a homecoming, because he played his first two NBA seasons for Los Angeles before getting traded four times and eventually returning last week. Russell was clearly thrilled to be back in Hollywood, putting on an impressive playmaking performance while also repeatedly exhorting the crowd to standing ovations for the Lakers.
After he hit a 3-pointer in the second half, Russell celebrated by pointing at the letters on his chest and screaming to the fans: “Like I never left!”
“I love those moments,” Russell said. “We had Bron tonight, and we seemed a little more fluid. Everybody pitched in. Everybody played a major part in keeping the lead, maintaining it, getting stops. I like what we showcased tonight.”
The Lakers hit the All-Star break in 13th place in the 15-team Western Conference at 27-32 — but the season isn’t over yet, and they’ve got promising reinforcements.
Russell, Jarred Vanderbilt and Malik Beasley joined James and Davis in the Lakers’ 30th starting lineup of the season, while Mo Bamba fouled out in 16 minutes as the backup center in his Lakers debut.
“It was just hot,” said Beasley, who scored eight poitns. “We wanted to make a statement and do what we do.”
Brandon Ingram scored 25 points and C.J. McCollum had 22 points and nine assists in his return from a one-game absence with a sprained right ankle for the Pelicans, who lost for only the second time in six games.
“We just didn’t play with a sense of urgency, and those were my end-of-game comments to our team,” coach Willie Green said. “We have to play with more force and have a sense of urgency that we just didn’t have tonight. Not a great effort on our part.”
New Orleans’ Josh Richardson was ejected for arguing a no-call with 10:52 to play.