The Los Angeles Lakers handled business on their end, taking care of the New Orleans Pelicans 110-98 on the road Sunday in the team’s final, regular season game of the year.
The Lakers needed some help to reach the No. 6 seed, and did not get from the Denver Nuggets, who lost to the Portland Trail Blazers by 16 points.
And with the Dallas Mavericks losing on the road to the Minnesota Timberwolves by 15 points, all three teams finished at 42-30.
The Mavericks grabbed the No. 5 seed by virtue of winning the Southwest Division. Dallas will face the Los Angeles Clippers, the No. 4 seed.
The Blazers earn the No. 6 seed because of their season series win over the Lakers. Portland will face the No. 3 seed, the Nuggets in the first round.
The leaves the Lakers as the No. 7 seed, hosting No. 8 seed the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday, 7 p.m. local time at the Staples Center in the play-in game. The winner moves on as the No. 7 seed in the first round of the playoffs, where they will face the No. 2 seed, the Phoenix Suns.
The loser would face the winner of the No. 9 seed, the Memphis Grizzlies vs. the No. 10 seed, the San Antonio Spurs at home on Friday.
“Seeding to me is always the results,” Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said, when asked how he approached the seeding process for his team. “I think the proper way to manage a team going into the playoffs is let’s be as healthy as possible, as in-rhythm as possible and win as many games as you possibly can.
“Every night you go out and compete with responsible minutes for your players, win as many games as you can and wherever the seeding falls, it falls. And you go in confident with any matchup.”
The Lakers never trailed in this one, leading by as many as 12 points in the first half. LeBron James paced the Lakers with 25 points, six assists and three steals.
Andre Drummond finished with 13 points and 13 rebounds. Dennis Schröder added 12 points and four assists. Anthony Davis totaled 14 points and five rebounds.
However, James did leave the game with 6:35 left after appearing to re-injure his sprained right ankle coming down awkwardly after a made basket. James appeared to walk off the injury on the sideline afterward.
Los Angeles finished the regular season winning five straight games. And the Lakers battled through some adversity in setting the table to defend their title this postseason, with all players finishing the regular season healthy.
“We have remained together through all the blows the have been dealt our way,” Vogel said. “And that’s the No. 1 things you need going into the playoffs, is your cohesiveness, your togetherness and right now I feel like we’re all pulling in the same direction.
“Hopefully, all the adversity will strengthen us going into the playoffs, all the silver linings we achieved along the way. All the guys being able to play added minutes in different roles and those type of things will add strength for us going into the playoffs.”