NBA

LeBron leads Lakers into playoffs after wild OT win over Timberwolves, Hawks upset Heat

By Sports Desk April 12, 2023

LeBron James led the way as the Los Angeles Lakers rallied from a 15-point deficit to clinch their playoffs spot with a 108-102 overtime win over the short-handed Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday.

James finished with 30 points on 12-of-21 shooting with 10 rebounds, six assists and two blocks, including sinking a crucial three-pointer to tie the game up 95-95 with 2:03 left in regulation time.

The four-time MVP drove to the basket and kicked out a pass to Denis Schroder to drain a potential game-winning three-pointer to put the Lakers up by three with 1.4 seconds left, only for Anthony Davis to foul Mike Conley on an ambitious three-point attempt.

The Timberwolves veteran guard showed composure to hit all three free-throws, sending the game to overtime but Minnesota were undone by four OT turnovers, totalling for 24 for the game. The Wolves also scored only 16 points after leading 86-79 at three-quarter time.

The Lakers, who were 25-30 at the trade deadline before shuffling their roster and storming into the play-in tournament, secure the seven seed and will face the Memphis Grizzlies in the playoffs first round.

Minnesota, who were missing the suspended Rudy Gobert and injured Jaden McDaniels, will take on the winner of the New Orleans Pelicans-Oklahoma City Thunder play-in game for the right to take the eight seed.

Veteran LA guard Schroder was excellent off the bench with 21 points from 32 minutes including shooting three-of-four from beyond the arc. Davis added 24 points with 15 rebounds and three blocks.

Conley was exceptional for the Timberwolves with 23 points, making six-of-eight from three-point range with four rebounds, four assists and three steals.

Karl-Anthony Towns scored 24 points with 11 rebounds and three blocks in Gobert's absence after the French center swung a punch at teammate Kyle Anderson during at timeout in their final regular season game, leading to a team-imposed suspension.

Anthony Edwards had a game to forget, shooting three-of-17 from the field and none-of-nine from three-point range for nine points with eight rebounds.

Hawks upset Heat to clinch seven seed

Quin Snyder's Atlanta Hawks clinched the Eastern Conference's seven seed and will face the Boston Celtics in the playoffs first round after overcoming the Miami Heat 116-105.

Hawks center Clint Capela was outstanding in the paint with 21 rebounds, including eight offensive rebounds, along with two blocks.

Trae Young scored a team-high 25 points on eight-of-18 shooting from the field, despite making only one-of-eight from three-point range, while Dejounte Murray added 18 points with three triples.

Atlanta opened up a 24-point second-quarter lead which was trimmed to 65-50 by half-time, but never relented despite the Heat closing within five in the third.

Kyle Lowry top scored for the Heat with 33 points with six-of-nine from beyond the arc along with four rebounds and five assists.

Tyler Herro added 26 points, while Jimmy Butler scored 21 points with four rebounds, nine assists, two steals and a block.

Atlanta got the edge in the key with 63-39 rebounds, including 22-6 on the offensive glass with 26-6 second-chance points led by Capela.

The Heat will take on the winner of Wednesday's Toronto Raptors-Chicago Bulls' play-in tournament game for the right to the East's eight seed.

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    LeBron James has warned the Los Angeles Lakers must play "mistake-free basketball" if they are to overcome the Denver Nuggets.

    The Lakers defeated the New Orleans Pelicans 110-106 on Tuesday, meaning they progress to the first round of the playoffs.

    A series against the reigning NBA champions awaits, starting on Saturday.

    And James, who finished with 23 points, nine rebounds and nine assists, knows the Lakers will have to deliver a near-perfect performance.

    "It's the defending champion," James said.

    "They know what it takes. They know how to win. They've been extremely dominant on their home floor over the last few years.

    "They've got an MVP on their team. They've got a closer on their team. They've got high-level players, high-IQ players, and they've got a hell of a coach.

    "So, we have to play mistake-free basketball. Make it tough on them. They're going to try to make it tough on us, obviously.

    "But if we can play as great of a game as we can play, and they're going to play as great of a game as they play, it's going come down to one or two possessions. We'll see who executes then."

    It was put to Lakers coach Darvin Ham that there had been reports the Lakers might throw their game against the Pelicans in order to go up against either the Sacramento Kings or the Golden State Warriors in the other play-in game.

    The Kings ultimately won, and will now face the Pelicans, with the prize a matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Western Conference's No.1 seed.

    "There was a report of what?" an incredulous Ham said. "Insane asylum sources say?"

    The Lakers reached the Conference Finals last year, and Anthony Davis is confident Los Angeles are coming into their best form at the opportune moment.

    "I think we're clicking at the right time," Davis said.

    "Guys are playing well. Guys are very confident. Guys are feeling good. And we're going to need it, especially against Denver."

  • 'We knew what was on the line' – Kings had to overcome Warriors 'hurdle', says Fox 'We knew what was on the line' – Kings had to overcome Warriors 'hurdle', says Fox

    D'Aaron Fox said the Sacramento Kings knew exactly was on the line when they went up against the Golden State Warriors.

    The Kings came out on top 118-94 on Tuesday, progressing to a meeting with the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday as Sacramento aim to make the playoffs.

    Sacramento, who were led by Keegan Murray's 32 points, lost to the Warriors in the first round of the playoffs last year.

    And Fox and his teammates knew exactly how important gaining a measure of revenge was this time around.

    "We knew what was on the line," said Fox, who scored 24 points for the Kings.

    "This was just another obstacle in our way. We have to get over this hump.

    "Obviously, losing to this team last year and obviously facing this team now, it's like, of course we have to face this team."

    The Warriors, meanwhile, have now missed out on the playoffs for the third time in the past five seasons.

    "I was a sophomore in high school watching them win championships [four titles between 2015 and 2022]," Fox said.

    "We've been watching this team for a long time. If it is the end, it is what it is. I'm glad we're able to beat this team at this moment, but they definitely had a hell of a run."

    Stephen Curry managed 22 points for the Warriors, but he admitted Golden State were second-best.

    He said: "For the most part, they just took it to us the whole game. There's really no way around it."

  • LeBron James stars as LA Lakers beat New Orleans Pelicans to reach NBA play-offs LeBron James stars as LA Lakers beat New Orleans Pelicans to reach NBA play-offs

    LeBron James starred as the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the New Orleans Pelicans to reach the NBA play-offs.

    The 39-year-old scored 23 points in the Lakers’ 110-106 victory and also contributed nine rebounds, nine assists and three steals.

    The Lakers go into the play-offs as the seventh seed and will face defending champions the Denver Nuggets in the first round.

    Speaking to reporters, James said: “It was a good all-round team win. This was a long road trip, you almost forget we were in Memphis before these two games.

    “Tonight was definitely a play-off game so get your mind right, get your body right, try to get as much recovery as we can before we have to go out there on Saturday.

    “It’s a sprint now, we already went through the marathon. Tonight we showcased what we’re able to do both offensively and defensively. We’ve got a good group going right now, a good rotation, good plan and guys are coming in ready to go.”

    James, who will compete in the play-offs for the 17th time in 21 seasons, feels his team have their work cut out against the Nuggets.

    “It’s the defending champion, they know what it takes, they know how to win, they’ve been extremely dominant at home over the last few years,” he said.

    “They’ve got high-level players, high IQ players, they’ve got a hell of a coach. We have to play mistake-free basketball and make it tough on them.”

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