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NBA playoff watch – Lakers dealt one other blow; Nets in peril of slipping to No. Three in East

With the addition of the play-in games to the 2021 NBA playoffs, the scramble for seeding is wilder — and extra necessary — than ever, with virtually each sport down the stretch having vital postseason implications.

This is a breakdown of all the important thing video games from Thursday night time and what the outcomes imply for the seedings, plus a take a look at what the play-in matchups could be if the season ended as we speak:

The LA Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers met for the ultimate time within the common season, however the sport was an afterthought.

Anthony Davis left the game within the first half to be evaluated earlier than being dominated out due to again spasms, in accordance with the Lakers. The celebrity heart performed simply 9 minutes and had 4 factors and one rebound earlier than departing.

At this level, the Lakers must put Davis and LeBron James in bubble wrap till the playoffs — or the play-in match. Already with out James, Dennis Schroder and Talen Horton-Tucker, the Lakers had been routed by the Clippers 118-94 at Staples Heart.

Davis stated his proper ankle, which he appeared to tweak, is ok however that his again locked up.

“It feels higher now that I received some work accomplished,” stated Davis, whose Lakers play the Blazers on Friday, “and I ought to have the ability to go tomorrow.”

The Lakers dropped right into a tie with Portland at 37-29 for the No. 6 spot within the West, and the groups play one another in a crucial sport on Friday with the winner taking the tiebreaker. The loser, after all, falls into the dreaded No. 7 seed, which might imply being relegated to the play-in match. With Thursday’s loss, the Lakers’ odds of being within the play-in elevated to 37% — from 31% — in accordance with BPI.

However at this level, the Lakers’ fragile well being is by far the most important concern. Whether or not they’re within the play-in or earn a top-six seed, the postseason can be a brief one for the defending champs if Davis and James aren’t wholesome.

On the opposite facet, the Clippers loved a straightforward night time, however they nonetheless aren’t near hitting their stride. Whereas they’re battling the Denver Nuggets (who personal the tiebreaker between the groups) for third within the West, the Clippers’ greater subject is creating their chemistry and rhythm coming into the postseason.

Due to accidents to Kawhi Leonard, Patrick Beverley and Serge Ibaka, the Clippers have not been at full power for a very long time, and coach Ty Lue has to not solely develop continuity for his staff but additionally determine the most effective lineups and rotations earlier than the playoffs start. Leonard continues to slowly ramp up for the postseason. He completed with 15 factors, Eight rebounds and 6 assists whereas on a minutes restriction in his third sport again from a foot subject.

If the Lakers and Clippers see one another once more this season, it is going to be within the playoffs. However the Battle for L.A. will not have the identical sizzle if Davis and James aren’t wholesome. — Ohm Youngmisuk

Different key video games

Nets in peril of slipping to 3-seed — The Nets are in critical jeopardy of slipping to the East’s third seed after their 113-109 loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday as Brooklyn has misplaced 4 straight video games for the primary time all season.

The Milwaukee Bucks are solely a half-game behind Brooklyn and personal the tiebreaker between the groups. The Nets’ reclaiming first place within the East seems exceedingly unlikely, because the Philadelphia 76ers have a 2½-game lead and are using a six-game successful streak.

The Mavericks’ eighth win in an 11-game span — with all the losses surprisingly to the lottery-bound Sacramento Kings — was one other step towards avoiding the play-in match that Luka Doncic so strongly dislikes.

Dallas is alone within the fifth spot of the Western Convention standings. The Mavs moved a full sport forward of the seventh-place Portland Trail Blazers, who personal the season tiebreaker over Dallas.

A fifth-place end may get the Mavs a first-round rematch with the Clippers, who bounced them from the bubble within the first spherical final season. — Tim MacMahon

Curry, Warriors maintain enterprise — The Golden State Warriors adopted a tried-and-true technique of their 118-97 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder: Give Stephen Curry the ball and let him go to work. Curry rattled off a cool 34 factors in a sport that vaulted the Warriors again into the eighth spot — by a half-game — within the Western Convention thanks partly to a shocking Pistons win over the Grizzlies.

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Steph Curry pump-fakes, sending Moses Brown flying by way of the air, then knocks down the 3-pointer.

Apart from Curry’s typical brilliance, the important thing for the Warriors on Thursday was ball motion. They’d 36 assists and had been capable of get clear appears to be like all through the night time. Kerr and his gamers have stated it repeatedly all year long — however they proceed to be the beneficiaries of the area Curry calls for from opposing defenses. The win got here within the first of six straight video games at house to finish the season — and the higher information for Curry & Co. is that they get to face the tanking Thunder once more on Saturday night time. — Nick Friedell

Wizards have Raptors on the ropes — In what was just about final name for Toronto, the Raptors misplaced to the Wizards 131-129 to fall 4 video games behind Washington with 5 to play within the battle for the ultimate play-in spot within the East. It did not come straightforward for the Wizards, who had been pushed to time beyond regulation on a 3-pointer by Toronto’s Fred VanVleet with two seconds left in regulation.

Pacers cool off Hawks — The Pacers beat the Hawks 133-126 to carry on to their half-game edge on the Wizards for the ninth spot within the East, with the groups squaring off Saturday. Atlanta, which had a three-game successful streak snapped, sits a sport behind the Knicks for the No. Four seed within the East and a sport forward of the Celtics and Warmth within the race to keep away from the No. 7 seed.

Grizzlies cannot take benefit — Memphis entered the sport with a half-game lead over Golden State for eighth place within the Western Convention, however could not benefit from a matchup with the lowly Pistons, dropping 111-97.

Play-in matchups following Thursday’s video games

Play-in video games to be held Could 18-21

How the play-in tournament will work
Current NBA standings

EAST

Recreation 1: No. Eight Charlotte at No. 7 Miami — winner is No. 7 seed in playoffs

Recreation 2: No. 10 Washington at No. 9 Indiana — winner strikes on in play-in; loser is eradicated

Recreation 3: Indiana/Washington winner at Miami/Charlotte loser — winner is No. Eight seed in playoffs

WEST

Recreation 1: No. Eight Golden State at No. 7 Portland — winner is No. 7 seed in playoffs

Recreation 2: No. 10 San Antonio at No. 9 Memphis — winner strikes on in play-in; loser is eradicated

Recreation 3: Memphis/San Antonio winner at Portland/Golden State loser — winner is No. Eight seed in playoffs

Spotlight of the night time

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Dorian Finney-Smith hustles to save lots of an surprising move from Luka Doncic and finally ends up flying right into a cameraman.

Numbers that matter

180Russell Westbrook had the 180th triple-double of his profession, leaving him one shy of tying Oscar Robertson for essentially the most in NBA historical past. Westbrook had 13 factors, 17 rebounds and 17 assists, however he was 5-for-19 from the sector, had seven turnovers and fouled out in time beyond regulation.

4-6 — The Nets are 4-6 since Jan. 16 when Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving play with out James Harden.

Friday night time’s key video games

Pelicans at Sixers, 7 ET
Celtics at Bulls, 7:30 ET (ESPN)
Magic at Hornets, Eight ET
Timberwolves at Warmth, Eight ET
Rockets at Bucks, Eight ET
Cavaliers at Mavericks, 8:30 ET
Nuggets at Jazz, 9 ET
Knicks at Suns, 10 ET
Lakers at Path Blazers, 10 ET (ESPN)
Spurs at Kings, 10 ET

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