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NBA Play-In: Lakers Beat Pelicans, Kings Eliminate Warriors

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) reacts late in the second half of an NBA basketball play-in tournament game. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

The Los Angeles Lakers secured a playoff berth with a 110-106 victory over Pelicans in the Western Conference play-in tournament on Tuesday night. They will now go on to face the Denver Nuggets as the 7th seed in the West in their first round matchup. New Orleans will have one more chance to qualify for the playoffs in a do-or-die game against Sacramento Kings on Friday at home.

Lebron James almost had a triple-double, dropping 23 points with 9 assists and 9 rebounds while Anthony Davis put up 20 points and 15 rebounds. Both stars had bad shooting nights, going for 12-26 combined from the floor.

DeAngelo Russell came up big, scoring 21 points with 5 three-pointers and Rui Hachimura was efficient with his 13 points off just 6 shots. The big concern for the Lakers going forward was the lack of production from the bench, who only managed to score 17 points in total.

For the Pelicans, Zion Williamson had 40 points and 11 rebounds and 5 assists in his first ever NBA postseason game. He didn’t get much help from his wingmen Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum who had nights to forget, only managing 11 and 9 points respectively on a combined 8-27 shooting. 

New Orleans started off the game strong, outscoring the Lakers 34-26 in the first quarter to take an 8 point lead. It was all LA in the second quarter though, as Lebron started to make his mark on the game, getting to the free throw line at will.

The Lakers ran the lead up to as much as 18 in the third quarter but New Orleans got back in the game with a 19-8 run to end the period. They then went on to tie the game up at 93-all in the 4th quarter with only 3:53 to go via a thunderous alley-oop from Jose Alvarado to Williamson.

Shortly after Williamson was sent back to the locker room with an apparent injury. The Lakers took full advantage, first with James hitting a mid-range jumper to put the Lakers back in front. Then with Anthony Davis and DeAngelo Russell scoring back-to-back clutch buckets to extend the lead. Davis grabbed a crucial offensive rebound at the end and hit two free throws to put the game on ice.

The Lakers will have the daunting task of facing the defending NBA champion Denver Nuggets in the first round. It will be a rematch of last season’s Western Conference finals, which was swept by the Nuggets. Game 1 is set to be played on Saturday night in Denver.

Kings Eliminate Warriors From Playoff Contention

In a battle between the 9th and 10th seeds in the West, the Sacramento Kings hosted the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night, for the chance to play the Pelicans on Friday for the 8th seed playoff spot.

In the end, Sacramento was just too much for the aging Warriors team, dominating them 118-94 in a one-sided game. The loss kept Golden State out of the playoffs for the third time in the past five seasons, including two eliminations in the play-in tournament. 

Keegan Murray top-scored for the Kings with 32 points and De’Aaron Fox added 24 in 39 minutes of play. All five starters for Sacramento hit double figures while the bench only produced 14 points.

Steph Curry had 22 for Golden State which included three triples but in the end it wasn’t even close to enough. Klay Thompson missed all 10 shots from the field in what was one of his worst performances of the season. 

The Warriors committed 16 turnovers and got dominated on the board as they gave up 15 offensive rebounds in the loss. The Kings also made 8 more three pointers.

Sacramento will be heavy underdogs against the Pelicans on Friday after going 0-5 against them in the regular season. The Pelicans could however be without their star player in Zion Williamson which could be the opening the Kings need to advance.