Yes, the Western Conference race for the final playoff spot should be special. Coming back from the week long layoff, the Los Angeles Lakers already gained ground in the race for the 8th seed. Their 111-106 comeback victory over the Houston Rockets on Thursday night was a nice start. They also had some help by the Golden State Warriors with their win over the No. 9 seed Sacramento Kings, 125-123.
Now, the Lakers are 2.5 games behind the supposedly tanking Los Angeles Clippers at (29-29). They are back to .500. Meanwhile, the Kings dropped to (30-28). However, the Kings don’t have to face the Warriors anymore during the regular season. They were a perfect (0-4) against the defending champions this season.
LeBron James and company started out slow. Yet, they were able to reel in the Rockets in the fourth quarter. James produced 29 points, 11 rebounds and 6 assists in the win. He also had some second half help from an unlikely source. Brandon Ingram struggled to shoot the ball early, but he was able to get into the lane on numerous occasions.
Ingram finished with 27 points and 13 rebounds. Kyle Kuzma chipped in with 18 points.
James Harden reached the 30-point mark for the 32nd straight game. However, he was -8 in the +/-. The Rockets also lost a game on the Portland Trailblazers. They are now two games behind in the No. 5 seed for the Western Conference.
The Kings were paced by rookie Marvin Bagley in the loss. Bagley came off the bench to produce 28 points and 14 rebounds. He shot 8 of 19 from the field, however, it was Bagley’s ability to get to the line that made the difference. He finished 11 of 14 from the charity stripe. Keep in mind, Kevin Durant blocked Bagley’s shot five times in the contest.
The Kings also had to deal with a motivated Stephen Curry in their first game back. Curry connected on 10 of 16 3-point shots, leading to 36 points. He also had 7 assists and 6 rebounds. Durant added 28 points, 9 rebounds and 7 blocks in the win. The Warriors are now 2.5 games up on the Denver Nuggets with a (42-16) record.
The Clippers resume their quest for the No. 8 seed with a match up against the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday.