Lakers vs Pelicans Final score: LeBron, Anthony Davis fall short in return

I don’t think Frank Vogel went into Friday night’s game trying to lose, but if he has been trying to help the Lakers tank, I don’t know how different the roster choices he made would have been. Because if bad basketball bands that don’t make much sense together on paper or in practice were an album, Vogel played all of his greatest hits in the Lakers’ 114-111 loss to the Pelicans. of New Orleans.

The loss dropped the team to 31-46, three games behind the Pelicans for ninth place in the West, a full game behind the Spurs for 10th and on the verge of missing the play-in entirely.

The bad decisions that got them to this point came in waves. LeBron James and Anthony Davis were back, but they were flanked as starters by the awful spacer couple of Dwight Howard and Russell Westbrook, and making matters worse was the inclusion of the shooting guard and safety cover Vogel Avery Bradley, who moved from routine DNP-CDs back to the starting lineup, for some reason. The offense, as you might expect, looked more clogged than the 405 at rush hour.

Then, when James and Davis went to the bench at the same time in the first quarter, Westbrook was asked to carry the team himself alongside luminaries such as Wenyen Gabriel, DJ Augustin and Malik Monk. It’s a strategy we’ve seen Westbrook no longer able to lead in almost every opportunity given to him to do so all year, and so it was no surprise that it didn’t. worked.

Those are just a few examples of the questionable rotational decisions Vogel made that night in the lone first half that put the Lakers behind the 8-ball. And all could be defended in a vacuum, if it was the first night of the season.

Extra length to face the Pelicans front line! Avery Bradley chasing CJ McCollum!

But despite all the “season starts now” jokes, the season is almost over. We know stuff like that doesn’t work. We have the band. We’ve seen it all year. And the Lakers don’t have the room for error to make up for mistakes, and certainly not that many in a row on the same night. This list is too sensitive, too imperfect. It should be perfectly massaged, not repeatedly hit with a jackhammer for mistakes.

James and Davis are still, clearly, great. James finished the game with 38 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists, while Davis looked a little slower in his opener but still shoved his way to 23 points, 12 rebounds and 6 assists.

And for all the examples we have of them or their supporting cast not showing up to play this season, the Lakers actually came out with great energy tonight. Their shot selection and execution weren’t great over time, but the Lakers wouldn’t have needed to be perfect in the final minutes if they hadn’t been put in such bad situations for various periods. of the game that they essentially had zero cushion to survive extended minutes of not turning off the lights.

James will be lambasted for his latest miss, but the Lakers wouldn’t have needed a desperate buzzer just to send this into overtime if they hadn’t essentially played the entire first half like a team of tankers, or someone doing cardio for a preseason game.

James and Davis’ collective celebrity level may make up for a lot. It may even keep the Lakers close despite their roster decisions. But it can’t completely make up for it this much choices like this. Not on such a flawed roster, and certainly not in what was perhaps the Lakers’ most important game of the year. And because the team opted to play with essentially one hand tied behind their back, they could ultimately miss the play-in.

So if this is how the Lakers’ 2021-22 season finally ends, consider this game a fitting end to a year-long odyssey of self-inflicted injuries.

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed at itunes, Spotify, embroiderer Where Google Podcasts. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.