Below are five things to take from the Lakers’ 131-125 loss Tuesday to the New Orleans Pelicans at Staples Center:
1. The Lakers couldn’t overcome a slow start. The Lakers once nursed as much as a 21-point lead against New Orleans because they lacked many of the qualities that ensured an upset Monday in Portland. The Lakers couldn’t defend. Outside of Pau Gasol, who scored the team’s first 13 points, the Lakers couldn’t generate consistent offense. The energy all around looked pretty depleted.
But the Lakers didn’t give up. Kent Bazemore scored 13 of his 23 points in the third quarter. The Lakers shot a sizzling 10 of 22 from three-point range (47 percent). Jordan Farmar scored 12 points in the final three minutes to close the deficit to 128-124 with 1:46 remaining. But the Lakers couldn’t hit a field goal the rest of the way, with key misses from Farmar (one) and Bazemore (three).
2. Wesley Johnson had a quiet night. So much for Johnson’s switch to power forward helping the Lakers’ small-ball lineup. After averaging 12.4 points on 56.5 percent shooting, 6.6 rebounds and 2.2 blocks in the past five games during the position switch, Johnson disappeared against New Orleans with only seven points on a 2 of 5 clip in 23 minutes. Part of Johnson’s limitations stemmed from early foul trouble. But he also appeared overwhelmed slowing down Hornets forward Anthony Davis, who posted 28 points on 10 of 16 shooting and 15 rebounds.
3. Jordan Farmar eating more into Kendall Marshall’s playing time. The Farmar-Marshall dynamic has played out in the same fashion the famed comedian Jerry Seinfeld once viewed his friends. Marshall thrived as a dependable point guard while Farmar nursed a left hamstring injury. Ever since Farmar’s return, he’s picked up his play while Marshall has regressed with his shooting. The two variables aren’t related. Marshall’s scoreless game marked the fourth time in the five games and single digits in three others around Kent Bazemore and MarShon Brooks arrived from Golden State.
Marshall sat to open the second half until the 3:09 mark of the third quarter. He then set out with 8:19 left in the final period and didn’t return since. That’s because Farmar’s rapid rise has come at the perfect moment. His 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting in 26 minutes entailed scoring 12 points in the final three minutes of the game. It’s unlikely Marshall loses his starting spot since Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni doesn’t want him to lose his confidence. But it’s clear Farmar will play more and more at the expense of Marshall if this trend continues.
4. Xavier Henry shook off some of his rustiness. For the first time in just over two months, Henry showed how he became a pleasant surprise as he morphed from a training camp invitee into a dependable wing player. In his second game since missing 28 contests because of a bone bruise and cartilage abnormalities in his right knee, Henry posted 12 points on 4 of 7 shooting in 14 minutes off the bench. That marked a huge improvement from his scoreless night on two field goal attempts in only five minutes in the Lakers’ win on Monday in Portland. Henry showed better rhythm and athleticism as he scored off dunks, a fadeaway floater, a pull up jumper and a three-pointer. Against Portland, both of Henry’s shots were blocked at the rim.
5. Lakers fail to sell out another game. The Lakers-Pelicans may have attracted NBA TV for unknown reasons. But the matchup hardly brought out Laker fans in droves to Staples Center. The Lakers’ loss to New Orleans marked the third game this season that didn’t sell out. The Lakers drew 18,436 fans, shy of the capacity of 18,997. Incidentally, the Lakers ended their sellout streak for regular-season home games at 270 when they brought 18,426 people at Staples Center for the team’s win over New Orleans on Nov. 12. The Lakers also attracted 18,209 fans in the team’s loss to the Utah Jazz on Feb. 11.
Phil Jackson unsure if Pau Gasol wants to return to the Lakers
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org