Job just got harder for Lakers but LeBron unfazed

Sports | 18 May 2021

The Utah Jazz claimed top spot in the NBA playoffs, Stephen Curry captured the scoring title, and the defending champions Los Angeles Lakers settled for a spot in the play-in round on the final day of the regular season.

LeBron James scored 25 points as the Lakers easily beat the short-handed New Orleans Pelicans 110-98 but the win wasn't enough to get the them directly into the playoffs.

The Portland Trail Blazers beat the Denver Nuggets 132-116 to earn the sixth seed ahead of the Lakers, who finished seventh for a place in the play-in tournament that begins tomorrow (HK time) and ends Saturday.

The Lakers next play Thursday against Curry's eighth-seeded Golden State Warriors, who have won six in a row, including 113-101 over the Memphis Grizzlies.

In the play-in, teams who finish from seventh to 10th in a conference will battle for the final two playoff spots. The seventh- and eighth-placed teams get two chances to book a playoff spot with a single win, while the ninth- or 10th-placed team would need two wins to advance.

"We just got to play to the best of our ability," said James, who has just gotten back after a right ankle injury had sidelined him for 26 games. "We got to play Laker basketball. We are playing the MVP of our league in Steph. We got to be ready for the opportunity and the pressure."

Curry earned his second scoring title after a 46-point performance against the Grizzlies. He finished the regular season with a 32.0-point scoring average, claiming the league title over Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards.

Elsewhere, the Jazz took the No 1 seed in the playoffs for the first time in franchise history by beating the Sacramento Kings 121-99 behind a 33-point performance from Jordan Clarkson.

The Jazz won't know who their first-round opponents are until the play-in tournament is decided, so too with the Western Conference second seeds Phoenix Suns.

The third-seeded Nuggets, however, will be playing the Blazers.

In the Eastern Conference, the Wizards, at No 8, face the seventh-seeded Boston Celtics, while the Charlotte Hornets open the play-in against the ninth-placed Indiana Pacers in Indiana.


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