AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
The Los Angeles Lakers won one of the most anticipated games of the season in incredible fashion, and their reward is a first-round date with Chris Paul and the Phoenix Suns.
Los Angeles defeated the Golden State Warriors 103-100 in Wednesday’s Western Conference play-in tournament game and clinched the No. 7 seed in the traditional eight-seed playoff bracket in the process. Golden State is relegated to Friday’s do-or-die contest against the Memphis Grizzlies with the winner landing the No. 8 seed.
LeBron James drilled what proved to be the winning three-pointer with less than one minute remaining and the shot clock expiring. Neither team scored the rest of the way from there, as Golden State’s inbounds pass was knocked away on the final possession.
Here is a look at the updated playoff picture following Wednesday’s results.
No. 1 Utah Jazz vs. No. 8 TBA
No. 2 Phoenix Suns vs. No. 7 Los Angeles Lakers
No. 3 Denver Nuggets vs. No. 6 Portland Trail Blazers
No. 4 Los Angeles Clippers vs. No. 5 Dallas Mavericks
Prior to the headline showdown between James’ Lakers and Stephen Curry’s Warriors, the Grizzlies extended their season with a 100-96 victory over the San Antonio Spurs.
They looked to be in full control when they jumped out to a commanding 38-19 lead after the first quarter, although the Spurs battled back to create plenty of drama by crunch time. In fact, San Antonio was within two points with less than four minutes remaining until Kyle Anderson hit a three, Jonas Valanciunas scored inside and Ja Morant answered a Rudy Gay three with a clutch shot.
Morant’s free throw with eight seconds left to push the lead back to four after Gay hit yet another triple all but clinched it.
Morant finished with 20 points, six assists and six rebounds, while Dillon Brooks added 24 points and seven boards.
Yet it was Valanciunas who set the tone inside on his way to 23 points, 23 rebounds and three blocks in a dominant showing against an overmatched Spurs frontcourt. He will need another impressive performance in Friday’s game going up against a frontcourt that features Draymond Green.
There was no shortage of drama in the second game.
Golden State appeared to be in full control when Curry hit a buzzer-beater to go up 13 at the half, but the Lakers came charging back to take a seven-point lead in the fourth quarter.
That set up a back-and-forth the rest of the way with Curry dancing through defenders and launching from deep, Anthony Davis scoring at the rim and James making one of the most memorable shots of the season.
Fortunately for the Warriors, they still have a chance to play their way into the postseason with a win Friday against the Grizzlies.
But it might take them some time to get over Wednesday’s heartbreak.