The Golden State Warriors roared into the NBA playoffs with a 157-101 blowout of Portland on Sunday, ensuring the Los Angeles Lakers will battle in the play-in after a 128-117 victory over the Utah Jazz.
Every team was in action on the final day of the regular season, but all eyes were on the Western Conference where more than a dozen potential seeding outcomes rested on the results of four games.
The reigning champion Warriors moved quickly to simplify matters for themselves, exploding for an NBA first-quarter record of 55 points in the opening frame.
Klay Thompson made five of the Warriors’ 12 three-pointers in the period – a record for treys by any team in an NBA quarter.
Thompson – who finished with six three-pointers and 20 points – became the third player in NBA history to hit 300 three-pointers in a single season. Teammate Stephen Curry has done it four times and James Harden has done it once.
The Warriors led by 28 after the first quarter, and Curry took over with 10 of his 26 points in the second as the Warriors took an 84-53 halftime lead.
They coasted home, with all the Warriors starters sitting out the fourth period.
“It’s been a very up and down season, but when you get to the playoffs none of that matters,” said Warriors talisman Draymond Green after the team clinched the sixth seed and a first-round series against the third-seeded Sacramento Kings. “The real season starts,” Green said, “And that’s what matters.”
The Los Angeles Clippers snagged the fifth seed with a 119-114 victory over the fourth-seeded Phoenix Suns – and the teams will meet again in the first round.
Kawhi Leonard scored 12 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter as the Clippers finally got past the Suns, who played without Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton.
Leonard said the Clippers will have to do better against a full-strength Suns squad.
“The last two games teams have been sitting their stars, and we’re struggling,” he said.
The Lakers, meanwhile, finished seventh and will host the Minnesota Timberwolves in the play-in on Tuesday, the winner advancing to the playoffs as the seventh seed in the West.
LeBron James drained eight three-pointers on the way to 36 points for the Lakers, who started the season 2-10 but have clawed their way to a post-season shot.
Anthony Davis scored 16 points and pulled down 13 rebounds and D’Angelo Russell added 17 points for the Lakers, who have won nine of their last 11 games.
“Our team is very well put together,” James said. “We got a lot of good balance. We did a good job of putting together a team that fits around AD and myself after the break. We’re just trying to make it happen on the floor.”
The Timberwolves snatched the eighth spot from New Orleans with a tumultuous 113-108 victory over the Pelicans.
The Timberwolves never led until the fourth quarter. They were down by 12 when a heated exchange between forward Kyle Anderson and center Rudy Gobert during a second-quarter timeout ended with Gobert taking a swing at his teammate before others stepped in to separate the two.
“Guys were just frustrated—we weren’t playing well, we weren’t sharing the ball, we looked sluggish,” Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said. “But obviously it’s not something we’re going to be able to tolerate here.”
Minnesota quickly announced that Gobert would not return to the game, and Jaden McDaniels also had to leave the contest after injuring his hand punching a wall in frustration.
However, Karl-Anthony Towns scored 12 of his 30 points in the final quarter and the Timberwolves – with 26 points and 13 rebounds from Anthony Edwards – withstood a 42-point performance from New Orleans’ Brandon Ingram to give themselves a more favorable play-in position.
If they lose to the Lakers, they can still reach the playoffs with a win over the play-in game between the Pelicans and Oklahoma City Thunder.
With seeding settled in the East going into Sunday’s games there was little drama.
The Philadelphia 76ers beat the Brooklyn Nets 134-105 in a preview of their upcoming first-round playoff series.
Brooklyn guard Mikal Bridges was the only regular starter for either team to play, clocking just seconds on court but extending his streak of consecutive games played to 392 — a perfect record over the first five seasons of his NBA career.
Bridges played his 83rd game of the 82-game season—gaining an extra game because of his February trade from Phoenix.
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