In the postgame locker room at the Smoothie King Center, Lonzo Ball sat before his locker, reliving what had just happened.
It was noted to Ball that there was a point in the fourth quarter when Jrue Holiday, the New Orleans Pelicans guard tasked with guarding him, turned his back on Ball entirely, refusing to even contest his shot, having no fear of his making it.
“There was about three of those,” Ball said, glumly, after a 128-125 loss to the Pelicans in which he missed 11 of his 12 three-point attempts.
As the Lakers fell to 31-40, the Pelicans improved to 43-30 and secured their third win in three days. Anthony Davis scored 33 points against the Lakers, and had 98 points total during the Pelicans’ unusual tripleheader.
New Orleans faced Indiana on Wednesday in a game that had to be postponed due to leakage in the roof of the Smoothie King Center in their originally scheduled matchup in February. They played the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday.
Ball finished with six points, nine assists and 13 rebounds, going two for 15 overall from the field.
“He had, what, 13 rebounds and nine assists tonight?” Lakers coach Luke Walton said. “We scored 120-something points. It’s not our offense. We’re not losing because we’re not making shots. The ball is moving, we’re playing at a good pace.
“The reason we lost was we didn’t play any defense for the majority of the game. Eighty. Points,” he said of the Pelicans’ 80-48 differential for points in the paint. “That’s the only reason we lost tonight. We didn’t lose because Zo didn’t make shots.”
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope led the Lakers with 28 points, including eight three-pointers, which tied a career high. Holiday and Rajon Rondo added 50 points together.
“We didn’t play defense,” Lakers guard Isaiah Thomas said. “They didn’t feel us at any point in the game. They weren’t playing defense at all either, so that’s why we were able to score as well.”
The Lakers led 44-40 after the first quarter and 73-71 at halftime. By then, four players on each team had reached double figures.
In the third quarter, the Lakers seemed to pull away. They made half their shots and outscored the Pelicans by nine. Their 108 points through three quarters was a season high while the Pelicans scored 97 by that point.
Then came a cold streak.
Julius Randle, who had 23 points and 10 rebounds, scored with 3:31 left in the game to put the Lakers up 125-121. They never scored again. Rondo made a three-pointer to get the Pelicans within one. Then Rondo scored the go-ahead layup.
Meanwhile, Ball attempted three three-pointers — one with 2:13 left, one with 58.4 seconds left and one with 17.2 seconds left. There wasn’t a Pelicans player anywhere close to him on any of those attempts and he missed all three.
“It should play into our favor,” Ball said. “It’s a wide-open shot. I should be making them.”
Ball has made only one three-pointer in each of the last seven games. He has made seven of his last 48 attempts from three-point range and is at 31.5% for the season. The Lakers encourage him and all of their players to shoot if they are open and if the shot comes in a rhythm. Ball has, for most of the season, remained unflappable in his confidence about his shot.
On Thursday night, some dents appeared in the armor.
“The shots I’m getting, I like them, been hitting them my whole life,” Ball said. “A little frustrated they’re not going in though.”
On one of the plays when Holiday turned his back on Ball, Ball gave up the ball despite being open, passing instead to Travis Wear.
“That’s tough on anybody,” Caldwell-Pope said. “That would be hard for me to shoot the ball if somebody did that. I’m just encouraging him to keep shooting. Don’t give up, keep shooting.”
It’s the message he’s received from other teammates and his coach too.
“They think that’s his weakness,” Thomas said. “He’s just gotta continue to work. He’s confident in hisself. When he does knock those down, he’ll be the one laughing at the end.”
Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli