NBA Playoffs 2021 – LeBron James and Stephen Curry’s play-in performance was the playoff prelude everyone was hoping for – fr

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NBA Playoffs 2021 – LeBron James and Stephen Curry’s play-in performance was the playoff prelude everyone was hoping for – fr


LOS ANGELES – By all accounts, the play-in tournament has been a resounding success for the NBA this year. This created some exciting new storylines towards the end of the regular season and mostly stemmed the rampant tanking that had derided the last month of play for the 14 teams not making the playoffs.
And it gave us a delicious game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday night at Staples Center.

The game was an instant classic, with two of the league’s brightest stars, Stephen Curry and LeBron James, matching each other up with brilliant performances and shots that looked more like one of their classic Finals clash. NBA than the play-in game to get. in the playoffs themselves.

James got the better of Curry on Wednesday, hitting a 3-point 34ft over him to seal the Lakers’ 103-100 victory. The triple was the longest kick-off in the final three minutes of a game in James’ career, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

He finished with 22 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists for his 128th career triple-double (including the regular season, play-ins and playoffs).

“It was good to have that first punch,” James said. “Mike Tyson has always said, ‘Everyone has a plan until you get in the ring and get hit.

“We did this and we felt great. We felt good. It got us settled. It wasn’t comfortable, but it settled us down and we were able to bring the fight to them. for the playoffs. “

The Lakers’ victory gives them the seventh seed in the Western Conference and a first-round playoff game against the Phoenix Suns, but leaves the Warriors, who now fight for the eighth seed, in a knockout game against Friday. the Memphis Grizzlies (9 p.m. ET on ESPN).

It’s fair to wonder if the payoff for all this excitement is worth the risk of potentially losing one of the league’s flagship franchises before the playoffs officially start.

“It’s a bitter pill to swallow,” Kerr said after the game. “It was our game and we couldn’t do it. “

The Warriors now have less than 48 hours to regroup before facing the Grizzlies in San Francisco. It’s a bit redundant compared to the Warriors’ final regular-season victory on May 15 against Memphis, which determined the eighth seed in the play-in tournament.

In any other year, that victory would have sent the Warriors into a first-round series against the seeded Utah Jazz. But this year they’ll have to play two more games, one of which is an elimination game, just to move on to the same series.

According to league sources, the original proposal for a play-in tournament was to have the ninth and 10th place teams face off for a chance to play for the eighth seed. He appeared on the competitive committees for five or six years, before finding a perfect opportunity for a try last season in the NBA Bubble. It worked so well that the league chose to expand it to the current format, which also involves a play-in for the seventh seed.

Throughout the season, teams and stars that fell to seventh in the table lamented the new format, which could effectively take what had been a guaranteed playoff spot and turn it into a vulnerable position.

Was there a personal interest behind these criticisms? Sure. But there was also the harsh realization that it could take a heavy toll on a team like the Lakers, who were devastated by star player injuries in the second half of the season. Or a team like the Warriors, who have won 15 of their last 20 games to land what would have been a guaranteed playoff spot in previous seasons.

“You asked me a few days ago how I felt, I said I was good to go,” James said of the play-in format. “Let the chips stay where they can. I introduced myself and we arrived. And we were ready to play. “

In the first half, Los Angeles looked like a team that could have used the training week, shooting just 32.6 percent and missing 31 shots – the two lowest of the season. The trio of James, Anthony Davis and Dennis Schroder scored just 13 points. Curry alone had 15 points, including a contested 3-pointer over Alex Caruso to end the halftime with the Warriors leading 55-42.

The Warriors ‘defense also deserves some of the credit for the Lakers’ struggles in the first period. Golden State quietly grew into a good defensive team at the end of the season behind former Defensive Player of the Year Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins, the former No. 1 overall pick who was a positive for Golden State after its disappointing debut in Minnesota.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Lakers got a combined score of 2 for 18 when defended by Green (2 for 9) or Wiggins (0 for 9) in the first half.

The Lakers roared in the third quarter, finally giving up playing Andre Drummond in the middle. With the Warriors zipping the ball, creating energy and space for their shooters, LA had almost no choice but to put Davis in the middle, a position he doesn’t prefer.

But Davis didn’t have much success as a power forward in the first half, shooting just 2 for 12 from the field, so there wasn’t much reason to stick with it. ‘alignment.

Davis was 0 for 7 on floor when Drummond was on the field with him on Wednesday. He also shot 1-for-11 when Drummond or Montrezl Harrell was on the field with him, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

The switch gave immediate results. The Lakers went on 25-10, shooting 11 of 15 shots after Drummond was pulled out of the game with 5:16 left in the third quarter. The Lakers were +6 in the 21 minutes played by Davis at center Wednesday.

“The message at halftime was that we had to play more physically, that’s the public way of saying it,” said Vogel. “The rotational tweak was, a play-in game, an unprecedented situation for us. In a playoff series, you have to make your adjustments from Game 1 to Game 2 or from Game 5 to Game 6. We knew that adjustments were going to have to be made in the game.

“We looked at our big lineups, in the first half, that was the plan. Evaluate at halftime, whether it’s to turn back the clock or to adjust and play small… AD struggled to fall into place with the big roster, with Draymond absent. there, build it up and call nothing. So a combination of what I knew Wes [Matthews] would bring to our endurance and open things up for AD and start playing it at 5. ”

Of course, the Lakers’ run also straddled the 1:37 Curry was out of play at the start of the fourth quarter. Kerr generally likes to get Curry more rest than that, but the Lakers scored six straight points with Curry to take their first lead of the game, 81-79, off Kyle Kuzma’s hook from a pass from James with 11:05. to do in the game.

This was only the second time Curry has played in the opening two minutes of the fourth quarter of the season.

But it was a playoff-level atmosphere (around 6,000 fans), with playoff-level stakes, even though it’s not officially the playoffs yet. So Curry had to play.

“The guy is just amazing,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “Steve Kerr said we were going to throw the kitchen sink at him and we did – and he still had 37.”

According to Second Spectrum, the Lakers blitzed Curry in 15 chosen games Wednesday, including 13 in the second half. This is the second time Los Angeles has blitzed a single player in a game this season.

Curry has handled defenses like this all season. But the game has tightened. In the fourth quarter, the teams traded leaders three times, with James scoring eight of his 22 points, Davis finally finding his shot (13 of his 25 points) and Curry scoring 11 of his 37 points, the game-high.

James stayed in the game after being poked in the eye by Green and landed awkwardly on his left leg with 2:07 to go. He hit one of two free throws, tying the score at 98.

But it was the 3-point imbalance he hit in front of Curry with 58 seconds remaining – James’ longest mark of the season – that sealed the game for the Lakers.

“After Draymond’s finger in the eye, I literally saw three rims there,” James told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols after the game. “I just shot for the middle one. It was the kind of 3-point deep shot that Curry has hit so many times over the years. And Curry had the same reaction to James’ dagger that he normally leaves with others.

Curry pulled himself together, seeking revenge for the next possession. But the Lakers didn’t let him beat them, trapping him in the backcourt on the next possession and forcing him to pass Green to avoid a 10-second violation.

Green – who didn’t make a basket in the game but had nine rebounds, eight assists, three steals and three blocks – passed it on to Jordan Poole, who missed a 3-point 35 seconds to go.

“I walked into the locker room and the guys were upset, frustrated, angry that they didn’t get the job done,” Curry said. “But we’ll be ready on Friday… the biggest game of the year. ”

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