LOS ANGELES - Since the NBA All-Star break, the Los Angeles Lakers have done a remarkable job turning things around with its upgraded roster and finished the regular season as the No. 7 seed, which sends them to the play-in tournament.
For many in Laker Nation, that simply isn't good enough, especially when considering it's the purple and gold's second time in the play-in tournament in three seasons, after winning the championship in 2020.
The Lakers entered Sunday afternoon’s game against Utah tied in standings with the Pelicans and faced a potential four-way tiebreaker with New Orleans, the LA Clippers, and Golden State. NBA fans were on the edges of their seats in the final minutes of multiple games on Easter Sunday, as each win had an impact on playoff seeding.
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Utah put up a good fight but simply had no answer for the Lakers fueled by LeBron James in the fourth quarter. James finished with 36 points and the Lake Show won 128-117 in its regular-season finale.
Also on Sunday, the Lakers announced the signings of free agent Tristan Thompson and South Bay Lakers guard Shaquille Harrison to add depth to its roster for the playoffs. To make room, Davon Reed was waived.
LeBron James. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) (Getty Images)
Also winning must-win games were the Timberwolves, Warriors, and the Lakers' hallway rivals, the LA Clippers.
NBA playoff bracket (NBA.com.)
Now, the Lakers will face the Minnesota Timberwolves in the first round of the play-in tournament. In the 2022-23 regular season, the Lakers are 1-2 against Minnesota.
The NBA began implementing the play-in tournament in the 2020-21 season in which the six teams with the best records in each conference secure a guaranteed spot in the playoffs, while seeds 7-10 battle it out in elimination games.
The No. 9 and No. 10 seeds compete in a win-or-go-home game. The team who loses is automatically eliminated and its season ends. The winner then plays a second single-elimination game between the loser of the No. 7 and No. 8 seeds.
Therefore, if the Lakers win against the Timberwolves, they will advance to the playoffs to face Memphis. If they lose, they will then get another chance against the winner of the New Orleans and Oklahoma City play-in game. If they win, they would clinch a playoff spot to face Denver.
The Lakers take on Minnesota Tuesday night at 7 p.m. at the Crypto.com Arena in downtown Los Angeles.