LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers outlasted Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors to earn the Western Conference seventh seed. In the weeks before the thrilling contest, Jame has been quite vocal about his disdain toward the play-in game format. However, he just proved his stance wrong.
Lakers edge past the Warriors
The play-in game between the Lakers and Warriors lived up to the hype.
Golden State dominated the first half behind their stout defense, creating a 13-point halftime lead. Los Angeles struggled offensively with James, Anthony Davis, and Dennis Schroder, combining for 11 points on 4-of-23 shooting.
The tide shifted in the third quarter, with the Lakers cutting the deficit to two points. Los Angeles grabbed a seven-point lead early in the fourth quarter, but the teams battled back-and-forth in the final few minutes of regulation.
James capped off the entertaining contest with a go-ahead desperation 3-pointer with just over a minute left. According to ESPN Stats & Info, the 34-foot long-distance dagger is the longest go-ahead shot in his illustrious career.
James and Davis powered the second-half offense, combining for 36 points on 14-of-22 shooting. The four-time league MVP finished with a triple-double behind 22 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists. Davis posted a double-double with 25 points and 12 rebounds.
The Lakers will now face the second-seeded Phoenix Suns in a first-round matchup. Meanwhile, Curry and the Warriors head to an elimination game for the eighth seed against the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night.
Beyond that, the play-in game proved to the Lakers star what he won’t admit.
LeBron James just proved himself wrong about the NBA Play-in game
Over the last couple of weeks, James has been quite vocal about his negative feelings toward the play-in games.
The 36-year-old aired a much different sentiment last season, previously stating that those added contests provide an opportunity for teams to battle it out. His perspective now is solely fueled by bias, given that the Lakers are participants.
James is also in his 18th season, so extra games are not exactly what he wants. However, Wednesday’s game delivered on what the NBA wants from those contests.
The play-in games present an extended playoff vibe and intensity due to postseason positions being at stake. Not all the contests will feature star power with James and Stephen Curry, but it’s the playoff implications involved.
That alone drives fans’ interest as the outcome will alter the postseason picture. Wednesday’s contest also had the added luxury of featuring the most prominent stars vying for postseason positioning.
The game unfolded in a thrilling fashion while adding another chapter to the rivalry between the future Hall of Famers. James may have his reasons for not liking the format, but it’s nothing short of a home run for the NBA.
NBA will likely keep play-in game
The NBA’s second go-around with the play-in games has featured a much stronger playoff intensity.
Friday’s contests for the eighth seeds will hold the undertone of a postseason atmosphere. That is precisely what the league aimed for and will continue to generate.
The play-in format keeps more teams in the hunt for the playoffs while creating more meaningful basketball down the stretch of the regular season. The early sense is that the NBA will continue to roll with the format even with the 82-game slate returns.
Ultimately, the NBA has everything to gain and nothing to lose by keeping the format.