Lakers survive Pelicans' rally, advance to matchup vs. Nuggets

Lakers clinch playoff spot, 7th seed in win over Pelicans (3:20)

Check out some of the top moments from the Lakers' play-in victory over the Pelicans to clinch the 7th seed in the West. (3:20)

NEW ORLEANS -- LeBron James, Anthony Davis and their supporting cast have the Los Angeles Lakers looking like a tougher out in the playoffs than they appeared to be just a few weeks earlier.

James had 23 points, 9 assists and 9 rebounds, and the Lakers secured a playoff berth with a 110-106 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans in the Western Conference play-in tournament on Tuesday night.

The New Orleans Pelicans, meanwhile, find themselves on the brink of elimination and wondering about the health of star power forward Zion Williamson, whose dominant NBA postseason debut was cut short by an injury in the final minutes of a tight game.

"Tonight we showcased what we were able to do both offensively and defensively," said James, whose team enters the NBA playoffs having won 12 of 15 games. "We've got a good group going right now, good rotation, good plan and guys are coming in ready to go."

Williamson had 40 points and 11 rebounds in his NBA postseason debut. But shortly after tying the game at 95 on a driving layup with 3:19 to go, Williamson went to the locker room, throwing a towel to the floor in disgust as he walked into the tunnel with an apparent injury.

After the game, Pelicans coach Willie Green said Williamson had "left leg soreness."

"He's going to have some imaging on it tomorrow and we'll figure out more," Green said.

Soon after Williamson exited, James hit a jumper, Davis dunked Austin Reaves' alley-oop lob, D'Angelo Russell hit a 3 and Davis grabbed a crucial offensive rebound, after which he hit two free throws to help the Lakers hold off New Orleans.

The Pelicans "threw some heavy blows at us," Lakers coach Darvin Ham said. "They kept swinging. We kept fighting back."

"It revealed a lot about us and what we're made of," he added.

Davis tallied 20 points and 15 rebounds. Russell scored 21, hitting five times from deep.

The Lakers advance to face defending NBA champion Denver Nuggets in the first round in a rematch of last season's Western Conference finals, which was swept by the Nuggets. Game 1 is scheduled for Saturday night.

The Pelicans will take on the Sacramento Kings, who dispatched the Golden State Warriors in the other play-in game Tuesday night. The winner of that game Friday will move on to face the Oklahoma City Thunder.

"Obviously a tough loss for us," said Green, whose team could have clinched the sixth seed in the NBA playoffs Sunday but lost 124-108 at home to the Lakers, setting up Tuesday night's rematch in the play-in. "We've got to feel this one tonight and regroup and get ready for another one."

Williamson, Green said, was "fantastic."

"He settled into the game," Green said. "He just continued to attack. He found seams. He rebounded the ball. He played fast. [If] we have him for a few more minutes, maybe we have a chance to pull this thing out."

The Lakers went 14-of-35 from 3-point range. The Pelicans hit 9-of-29 from deep and Williamson didn't get a lot of help from the Pelicans' usual high scorers. Brandon Ingram -- in his second game back from a 12-game absence because of a knee injury -- missed 8 of 12 shots and finished with 11 points after spending the final few minutes on the bench.

"I just like the group that was on the floor at that time," Green said. "BI is still getting back, he's still finding his rhythm. So, I didn't want to force the issue."

CJ McCollum missed 11 of 15 shots and scored nine.

Trey Murphy III scored 12, hitting two 3s from beyond 28 feet in the second half to help New Orleans come back to tie it from a second-half deficit as large as 18 points.

The Lakers led 75-57 after Rui Hachimura's layup in the third quarter. But New Orleans got back in the game by outscoring Los Angeles 19-8 during the final 5:31 of the quarter.

Williamson sparked the surge with a pair of layups. Murphy pulled up for a 31-foot 3-pointer in the final minute of the quarter and Williamson's free throw made it 83-76 at the end of the period.

The Pelicans finally tied it when Williamson slammed down Jose Alvarado's alley-oop lob in transition to make it 93-all with 3:53 to go.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.