NBA regular season

Lakers, Warriors face key matchup for playoff position


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Lakers, Warriors face key matchup for playoff position

STAR POWER. Lakers forward LeBron James dribbles against Warriors guard Stephen Curry.

Darren Yamashita/USA TODAY Sports/REUTERS

LeBron James and the ninth-place Los Angeles Lakers take on Steph Curry and the No. 10 Golden State Warriors in a crucial matchup with big play-in implications

With one order of business now out of the way, the Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors will give one last shot at simplifying their path forward.

The teams will meet Tuesday (Wednesday, April 10, Manila time) at Los Angeles with longshot hopes still alive to earn a top-six spot in the Western Conference and an automatic berth into the playoffs that come with it. At the very least, improving their play-in tournament seed remains a possibility.

For now, the Lakers (45-34) and Warriors (43-35) at least have wrapped up a spot in the Western Conference play-in tournament as the regular-season draws to a close. Golden State nabbed the Western Conference’s last of 10 postseason spots Sunday.

But spots 7-10 still have play-in work to do in order to officially earn the final two seeds in the traditional conference playoffs.

The Lakers had a prime chance to move closer to the Phoenix Suns’ hold on the No. 6 spot, but they fell 127-117 at home to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday.

Los Angeles led after one quarter but had to play the final three periods without star Anthony Davis, who took a blow to his left eye for the second time in three weeks. The Lakers already were playing without LeBron James because of flu-like symptoms.

The loss of Davis, who is expected to be available Tuesday, meant the Lakers were without a player who had 27 points and 25 rebounds in the previous meeting against the Timberwolves.

“He’s extremely valuable,” Lakers head coach Darvin Ham said of Davis. “Everyone around here knows that. Everything he brings on both sides of the ball, it’s tough. Already being without Bron and seeing him go out, it’s tough.”

The lack of availability of both Davis and James meant the Lakers were without a combined 49.9 points and 19.8 rebounds for much of the game.

The Warriors officially clinched a play-in spot early Sunday when the Houston Rockets lost 147-136 in overtime to the Dallas Mavericks. They went out and celebrated with a 118-110 home victory over the Utah Jazz, as Stephen Curry was given a day of rest.

Klay Thompson scored 32 points for Golden State, his most in his seven games since returning to a starting role. It was actually his most since scoring 35 against the Jazz on Feb. 15, in the first game after he was moved into a reserve role following a shooting slump.

“I think we’re playing the best brand of basketball we have played all season and I am going to be very confident going into the play-in,” Thompson said. “I’m not going to say we’re better than last year because we haven’t advanced further than that.”

The Warriors advanced to the Western Conference semifinals last season as a No. 6 seed but were eliminated by the Lakers, who were a play-in team.

On Sunday, the Warriors saw Jonathan Kuminga return from knee tendonitis and score 21 points on 9-of-11 shooting while adding 10 rebounds off the bench. It was his fifth double-double of the season and the seventh of his career.

In addition to Curry’s absence, the Warriors also were playing without Andrew Wiggins (ankle) and Dario Saric (knee). –

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