LOS ANGELES -- The New Orleans Pelicans opened their last long road trip of the season with a big victory, gained a game on eighth-place Oklahoma City in the playoff race, and made some history in the process.
Wednesday night's 113-92 thrashing of Los Angeles at Staples Center, sparked by the return to action by forward Ryan Anderson, gave the Pelicans a four-game, season-series sweep of the Lakers -- a first in franchise history.
"We talked about this being a huge game for us," Pelicans coach Monty Williams said. "We weren't going to overlook this (20-54) team because they played so well on the road, and we wanted to take care of business in the game.
"I thought the way we started, we were a bit lax. After that, our guys got it together and we started playing better defense. Thirty-one assists tonight and only seven turnovers, that's a big deal for us. I thought our effort out of the second quarter was great. We defended better, we shared the ball, we got a big win."
New Orleans' second unit shined in that decisive, 31-18 second quarter, with Anderson a part of it, returning from a knee injury that cost him 18 games. He scored 17 points in 21 minutes, hit 2 of 4 three-pointers and highlighted his return to health with a two-handed dunk.
"Obviously, I was questioning my shape and where I was at, but I felt great tonight," Anderson said. "That was my prayer before the game, 'just give me some lungs, God.' It felt pretty good.
"That dunk was sort of my test to see how the leg was, and after that I felt pretty confident about it."
The Pelicans (40-34), who continue this trip Friday night at Sacramento and Saturday night at Portland, shot 56.4 percent for the game, including 9 of 16 from beyond the arc, and outrebounded the Lakers, 40-35. Meanwhile, the Thunder (42-33) lost at home, 135-131, despite a Russell Westbrook triple-double (31 points, 11 rebound, 11 assists). New Orleans and Oklahoma City don't meet again in the season's final eight games.
"We have a tough Sacramento team coming up, and we have to go out there and focus on that game -- we can't look ahead," said Anthony Davis, who had 20 points, on 9-of-15 shooting, seven rebounds and four blocked shots against the Lakers.
"We just played together," Davis said. "First quarter kind of got away from us. I think they had a 30-something (31) first quarter. That's on our defense, so in the second quarter, and in the second half, we tried to play well defensively, and play together."
Point guard Norris Cole had a solid game off the bench, with 17 points, four assists and zero turnovers in 27 minutes.
"I felt great tonight," he said. "I was in a good rhythm. Defensively, we picked it up in the second quarter on their guards. We were able to get out there in transition and run a little bit. I think it was a great team effort. We all did our jobs, and we all focused, and got the win that we needed."
Cole came to the Pelicans in a Feb. 19 trade with Miami. Two days later, Anderson was injured in a game against the Heat. Cole said the big man's return was an inspiration.
"He looked good," Cole said. "He's been working extremely hard to get back. He shoots the ball so well. And, he can also draw a lot of fouls, as you saw tonight (5 of 6 from the line). We've missed him, and it was good to see him come back from all his hard work."
Anderson said that he was "really happy with this second group I'm playing with. Obviously, they did a great job defensively, and we just wanted to keep that lead and extend that lead. That's what we were talking about doing today, and that's what I was talking about wanting to do.
"That's my home, out there on the court. It just felt really good to be back out there. I think that comfort level just happens after a few plays. This team did a tremendous job holding down the fort (while he was out). This team has resiliency."
L.A. Impressed: Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson said the Pelicans "have a lot of pieces. They spread the floor out with Ryan Anderson. He started making shots, and Anthony Davis is a load at the rim, he's so athletic and long. They just made plays, and we had trouble ieeping their guys out of the paint."
His teammate, Jeremy Lin, paid tribute to Williams. "They put us in tough situations and that coach knows what he is doing, definitely, with his X's and O's," Lin said.
The Lakers' Jabari Brown agreed, adding: "They were able to run their stuff, and pretty much got every look they wanted. I think they were 6 of 7 from three in the first half. So, when you're shooting like that, and scoring in the paint, it's going to be hard to keep up."