The LA Lakers beat the Utah Jazz on Sunday and finished the regular season with a 43-39 record. The team clinched a spot in the play-in tournament as the No. 7 seed and will face the No. 8 seed Minnesota Timberwolves (42-40) on Tuesday at the Crypto.com Arena. The winner will earn the 7th seed in the first round of the NBA playoffs.
LeBron James, finishing his 20th NBA season, dominated the game from the start. James hit eight 3-pointers while scoring 36 points. He finished with six rebounds, six assists, one steal, and one block. After his eighth 3-pointer, a 31-footer, and with the crowd on its feet, James placed an imaginary crown on his head. The crowd roared its approval– long live the king!
“We put ourselves in position where we can move on,” James said. “That’s all we asked for, to put ourselves in a position to move on.”
Anthony Davis continued his fine play with 16 points, 13 rebounds, three assists, three steals, and four blocks. The team played like a well-oiled machine, with D’Angelo Russell contributing 17 points, two rebounds, five assists, and one block; Malik Beasley coming off the bench and playing against his former team, scored 13 points, six rebounds and three assists; and Jarred Vanderbilt, Austin Reaves, and Rui Hachimura each contributing 12 points.
“It’s great, man,” Lakers head coach Darvin Ham said. “We’re excited, and guys are ready to go. We’ve got great synergy in our locker room. We need to clean up some stuff defensively, but outside of that, we’re ready to go.”
The Utah Jazz’ Kris Dunn scored 26 points, ten rebounds, eight assists, and Kelly Olynyk 23 points, five rebounds, and four assists. The team finished with the ninth worse record in the league, 37-45.
The game was not without fireworks as Jazz rookie Ochai Agbaji threw a ball too aggressively in the referee’s direction and received an immediate ejection in the third quarter. The Jazz head home to retool their team over the summer. Jazz head coach Will Hardy expressed his pride in their efforts:
“I told them that I love them and I’m proud of them,” Hardy said when asked about his final message to his team. “They were amazing with me and the staff this year. They had a first-time head coach, and they just rolled with everything.”
The first round of the playoffs begins Saturday. If the Lakers win the play-in game against the Timberwolves, they will earn the No. 7 seed in the playoffs and face the second-seeded Memphis Grizzlies in the first round. If the Lakers lose the play-in game, they will host the Oklahoma City – New Orleans winner with the No. 8 seed at stake.