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”It was pretty much a must-win (game) for us, and we didn't get the job done“ — LeBron James was clear after a horrible Lakers loss

LeBron talked about if this is the most challenging season he's ever had
New Orleans Pelicans forward Larry Nance Jr. beats Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James to a rebound

LeBron James and Larry Nance Jr.

The Los Angeles Lakers finally had all their superstars in uniform on Friday night but still failed to win a crucial game against the New Orleans Pelicans (114-111) at home.

This game would've helped the Lakers solidify their chances to compete in the play-in tournament, but their execution and LeBron James' missed game-winner hurt them the most down the stretch.

"It was pretty much a must-win (game) for us, and we didn't get the job done," LeBron James, who had 38 points in 40 minutes, said. "We didn't get into our sets a lot quicker. We didn't execute down the stretch. We got some good looks," James added.

The Lakers were up as many as six points midway through the fourth quarter, but turnovers, missed key shots, and the inability to garner defensive stops cost them the game. Anthony Davis, who returned to the lineup, flirted with a triple-double putting up 23 points, 12 rebounds, and 6 assists. The Brow looked spry in return, but it wasn't enough to lift the Lakers past his former team.

"This was a huge game for us, I definitely didn't want to sit out this game," Davis, who admitted that his conditioning wasn't where he wanted to be, said. "I felt good. The last four minutes were definitely a struggle. But up to that point, I felt really good," he added.

Questionable coaching decisions

Before Friday's vital match, Frank Vogel started Austin Reaves and forward Talen Horton-Tucker multiples times in the lineup. It was surprising that the two young players did not see a single minute on the floor on Friday.

Instead, Vogel went with a veteran starting five: Dwight Howard, Davis, James, Avery Bradley, and Russell Westbrook. According to the head coach, this defensive-focused lineup was the best to utilize against a guard-heavy team like the Pelicans.

"This was a playoff game for us. You used the roster on how we felt would win this matchup," Vogel said.

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Unfortunately, Vogel's lineups proved ineffective as CJ McCollum scored 32 points on only 23 field goal attempts. It also didn't help that Westbrook had a mediocre game with just 12 points and was mostly in foul trouble during the game. At one point in the third quarter, he had more fouls than field goals.

The Pelicans also won the free-throw game, which was huge for them down the stretch. Aside from McCollum, the Lakers also allowed their former player Brandon Ingram to score 29 and let Jonas Valancinas feast with 17 points.

1, 2, 3, Cancun!

Despite James, Davis, and Malik Monk's best efforts to win the game, the Lakers might be out of the play-in picture in a few days.

Their nemesis, the San Antonio Spurs, who are also gunning for a play-in spot, won their game on Friday against the Portland Trail Blazers, which means L.A. (31-49) remains in the 11th seed of the Western Conference.

When asked if this was the most challenging season he's ever had, James quickly dismissed this thought and said it's not even close to what he went through in the past.

"My first 2 yrs in the league I didn't make the playoffs. My 1st year in MIA made it all the way to the Finals & lost. I hate losing, but it's not the worse thing that's happened to me so far. Not even close." James said.

This turbulent season might not be the most difficult adversity James has endured but what might soon come for him and his team is the offseason.

The Lakers have five more games to go, and it is an understatement to say that they need everything to fall their way (including things out of their control like hoping the Spurs and Pelicans lose). But at least the team isn't giving up despite their current five-game losing streak.

"Until it says we are eliminated then it doesn't. When that happens then we'll know what our destiny is, but until then, we keep pushing forward," James said.

"Our mindset is to go 5-0 in these games. Let the chips fall where they may," Davis added.

The team has no clear picture of where they might end up after the next five must-win games, but it already seems like their summer vacation will start earlier than they had hoped. 

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