Saturday, May 25, 2024
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Lakers’ playoff seed chase: LeBron James turns back the clock again, seals crucial win with reverse slam

The Los Angeles Lakers kept their hopes of claiming the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference alive on Friday night with a dramatic 123-120 win over the Memphis Grizzlies that LeBron James sealed with a number of clutch baskets, including a stunning reverse slam in the closing seconds. 

With 15 seconds remaining, the Lakers were clinging to a three-point lead and the Grizzlies had the ball. GG Jackson decided to go to the basket and tossed up a wild shot that didn’t even hit the rim. The loose ball was batted around a few times and eventually sent out towards midcourt, where James went sprinting after it. While he didn’t win the race, he was right there to intercept Jack White’s save attempt and had nothing but open court ahead of him. From there, he decided to put on a show. 

“I felt like he was gonna have to try to save it to his teammate, so I saw his teammate in my side-view mirror, so I just tried to jump that pass cause he was trying to save it on the sideline,” James later said. “Pretty good read, and I was able to finish it off.” 

Including the dunk, James scored the final six points for the Lakers after the Grizzlies had briefly taken the lead with a minute left to play. All told, he finished with 37 points, nine rebounds and five assists on 13-of-20 shooting from the floor in 41 minutes. This was James’ fourth game with at least 35 points since he turned 39 years old earlier this season. In NBA history, only Michael Jordan (six) has more such games at 39 years or older. 

The Lakers have now won seven of their last 10 games to improve to 46-35 on the season, and after all results concluded on Friday, they control their destiny for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference. If they beat the New Orleans Pelicans in the final game of the season on Sunday, they will finish in eighth and avoid the dreaded win-or-go-home No. 9 vs. No. 10 game. 

Should the Lakers lose, however, they could then finish in either eight, ninth or 10th, depending on other results. They are one game ahead of both the Sacramento Kings and Golden State Warriors, but both of those teams own the season tiebreaker over the Lakers. The Warriors host the Utah Jazz, while the Kings are at home versus the Portland Trail Blazers — both winnable games that put pressure on the Lakers. 

All three of the Lakers, Warriors and Kings will tip-off at 3:30 p.m. ET on Sunday. While everyone else will be keeping tabs on all three contests, James has his sights set solely on New Orleans.

“I actually won’t [do any scoreboard watching],” James said. “Because at the end of the day, the games will dictate themselves, and whatever happens, happens. There’s no reason for me to be scoreboard watching. It is what it is, it’s the last game of the season coming on Sunday, so we’ll focus on New Orleans and go from there.” 

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