Lakers settle for play-in
LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers floats for a basket against the New Orleans Pelicans at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Lakers settle for play-in

(Agence France-Presse) - May 18, 2021 - 12:00am

Jazz earn top spot in playoffs

Los Angeles – 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 got 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.

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.

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