Jazz earn No. 1 seed in playoffs; Lakers settle for spot in play-in

Published May 17, 2021, 2:49 PM

by Agence-France-Presse

LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers drives to the basket against the New Orleans Pelicans on May 16, 2021 at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr. / NBAE / Getty Images / Getty Images via AFP)

The Utah Jazz claimed top spot in the playoffs, Stephen Curry captured the scoring title, and the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers settled for a spot in the play-in round as Sunday’s final day of the regular season saw all 30 NBA teams in action.

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

The Portland Trail Blazers beat the Denver Nuggets to earn the sixth seed ahead of the Lakers, who finished seventh for a place in the play-in tournament that begins Tuesday and ends Friday. Los Angeles next plays Wednesday night against Curry’s Golden State Warriors, who have won six in a row.

“We just go to play to the best of our ability,” said James. “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.”

Anthony Davis scored 14 points for the Lakers, whose fate was determined in the season finale for both teams.

James exited the game with six minutes to go in the fourth quarter to rest his sore right ankle that sidelined him for 26 games down the stretch. 

“I will be fine,” James said after the game.

Curry earned his second NBA scoring title as the Golden State Warriors beat the Memphis Grizzlies 113-101. Curry finished the regular season with a 32.0-point scoring average, claiming the league title over Washington Wizards’ Bradley Beal.

Elsewhere, the Jazz claimed sole possession of the No. 1 spot in the NBA playoffs for the first time in franchise history by beating the Sacramento Kings 121-99 behind a 33-point performance from Jordan Clarkson.

Rudy Gobert had a double-double of 13 points and 16 rebounds as the Jazz finished with a 52-20 record to beat out the second place Phoenix Suns for league bragging rights.

Mike Conley had 11 points and nine assists and Bojan Bogdanovic had 18 points. Conley was playing in just his second game back after missing two weeks with a hamstring problem.

The Jazz won’t know who their first opponent is until they face one of the surviving teams from the play-in games.

Trail Blazers beat Nuggets

Also, the Trail Blazers earned the upper hand in the race for the sixth and final direct playoff spot with a 132-116 win over the Nuggets, who they will meet in the first round of the playoffs.

CJ McCollum scored 24 points, Damian Lillard recorded 22 points and 10 assists and Jusuf Nurkic added 20 points and 13 rebounds in the wire-to-wire win.

Nikola Jokic scored 21 points in the first half before exiting for the Nuggets, who landed the third seed in West.

In the East, Kevin Durant delivered 23 points as the Brooklyn Nets seized the second seed in the conference with a wire-to-wire 123-109 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Brooklyn beat out the Milwaukee Bucks for the second seed after ending their season with a five-game win streak. 

A loss by Brooklyn and a Milwaukee win over the Chicago Bulls would have pushed the Nets into the third seed due to losing the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Bucks.

Early games saw the schedule set for the East play-in, in which the seventh through 10th-placed teams will battle for the final two playoff spots.

Washington rallied to beat the Charlotte Hornets 115-110 to set up a play-in tournament clash with the Boston Celtics.

Beal scored 20 of his 25 points in the second half for the Wizards, who trailed by as many as 15 in the third quarter.

Washington’s Russell Westbrook closed out the regular season with a triple-double, taking his career tally to 184 the week after he broke the all-time record with his 182nd.

The Hornets lost their fifth straight and dropped to 10th in the East. They’ll open the play-in against the ninth-place Pacers in Indiana.

Grabbing the No. 8 spot was big for Washington, since both 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.

 
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