The biggest news out of Sunday (ET), the final day of the 2020-21 NBA season, is surely the Los Angeles Lakers falling to the Play-In Tournament.
Despite the defending champions winning their last five games of the season, including the final couple with LeBron James returning to the line-up, they couldn't avoid the Play-In Tournament as the final results from the season's final day meant they were in a three-way tie for the fifth seed with the Dallas Mavericks and the Portland Trail Blazers.
Los Angeles gave themselves a chance by taking care of business with a 110-98 win in New Orleans but the moment Portland won their contest against MVP frontrunner Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets 132-116, their hopes of avoiding the Play-In were gone.
CJ, Dame and Nurk each drop 20+ as the @trailblazers clinch an #NBAPlayoffs berth!- NBA (@NBA) May 17, 2021
They'll face Denver in the First Round. pic.twitter.com/c3tobMP95W
With all three teams finishing at 42-30 for the season, Dallas had the advantage, even though they lost 136-121 in Minnesota, courtesy of being SouthWest Division champions. Then, between Portland and Los Angeles, the former gets the advantage with their 2-1 head-to-head record this season.
As the seven seed, the Lakers will receive two chances to make the postseason in the Play-In Tournament.
To seal the seventh seed, they will have to win their matchup against the league's scoring champion Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors, who locked-in the eight seed earlier in the day with a 113-101 win over Memphis Grizzlies.
46 PTS | 7 REB | 9 AST- Golden State Warriors (@warriors) May 16, 2021
Unreal performance from @StephenCurry30 pic.twitter.com/EXNEOVFPzf
"Steph is playing out of this world," Frank Vogel said postgame. It's going to be a big challenge, but one our guys are up to."
It's not just Curry they have to worry about but the Warriors are also owners of the league's fifth-best defence.
The Lakers have a couple of days off leading up to this game against the Warriors at the STAPLES Center which should be enough time for James to rest up and recover the ankle, one he turned after landing on an opponent's foot against the Pelicans.
.@KingJames came down on his ankle but seems to be fine. 🙏👑 pic.twitter.com/eTcxic81zj- Spectrum SportsNet (@SpectrumSN) May 17, 2021
"He says he's good to go. No issues," Vogel added addressing James' condition.
Rest of the West
Race to No. 1
The Utah Jazz clinched the league's best record for the first time in franchise history with a comfortable 121-99 win in Sacramento.
Their win means the Phoenix Suns, despite their win earlier in the day in San Antonio, will finish with the league's second-best record and will face the winner of the Lakers-Warriors contest in the first round of the playoffs.
📹| Game 72, win 52-roll tape!#podiumpostgame | @podiumhq pic.twitter.com/ucuRYG19TY- utahjazz (@utahjazz) May 17, 2021
Meanwhile, the Jazz will have to wait for the complete Play-In Tournament to end to know who they are facing.
For much of the final weeks of the regular season, the Nuggets and Clippers have battled for the third seed in the West. Heading into the final day, both teams were tied with the Nuggets holding the tiebreaker courtesy of their 2-1 head-to-head record this season.
However, with both teams losing on the final day, Denver by 16 and LA by five in OKC, they remained tied with a 47-25 record.
Thus, giving Denver the third seed and setting themselves up with a first-round matchup against the Portland Trail Blazers, a rematch of the their Conference Semifinals series from the 2019 playoffs. On the other hand, the Clippers slot up against the Mavericks in the first round for the second consecutive postseason.
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