LOS ANGELES -- — LeBron James hit eight 3-pointers while scoring 36 points, Anthony Davis had 16 points and 13 rebounds, and the Los Angeles Lakers surged into the postseason as the seventh seed in the Western Conference with a 128-117 victory over the Utah Jazz on Sunday.
About 30 minutes after the streamers fell from the rafters on the Lakers’ regular-season finale, Los Angeles (43-39) learned it will host Minnesota (42-40) in a play-in game on Tuesday night.
“It's different, because usually in the postseason, we have multiple days to prep for a team,” James said before the first play-in game of his 20-year NBA career. "We literally have one day to prep. ... For us, it's good that we don't have to travel. It's good that we get to stay here, but we shouldn't be comfortable. We need to stay on edge and get ready for the game.”
D'Angelo Russell had 17 points for the Lakers, who won nine of their last 11 games and went 18-9 after revamping their roster at the trade deadline. Los Angeles was six games under .500 as recently as Feb. 13 before finding its groove with the new players led by Russell, defense-minded starter Jarred Vanderbilt and outside shooter Malik Beasley.
“We’re just looking forward to the opportunity,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said. “Starting where we started at earlier in the year, and now sitting where we find ourselves sitting, we’re excited. Guys are ready to go. We’ve got great synergy in our locker room. Need to clean up some stuff defensively, but outside of that, we’re ready to go.”
Russell will be facing the Timberwolves for the second time since they traded him at the deadline.
“Not the fact that they traded me has anything to do with it, but the fact they're in the way of what we're trying to get done, that's all that really matters to me,” Russell said.
The Lakers never pulled away from the Jazz, who stayed within one possession down the stretch despite resting several key players. James hit his sixth 3-pointer with 3:32 to play and added his seventh with 1:07 left before burying the eighth with 39 seconds to play, finishing one shy of his single-game high in 3's.
James didn’t show it, but he said he came into the game with less than ideal rest because he flew back and forth to Portland on Saturday to watch his son, Bronny, play in the Nike Hoop Summit.
“I wasn’t going to miss it,” James said. “I understand how important fatherhood is, just coming from a no-father household. And to be able to have my daughter there with me, my wife, my mom, it means a lot. We just try to support each other in all our endeavors. ... I’m only as good as my family.”
Kris Dunn had 26 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists while Kelly Olynyk scored 23 points for the Jazz, who wrapped up their first non-playoff season in seven years with their ninth loss in 11 games. After trading Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert in the offseason ahead of what appeared to be a thorough franchise rebuild, Utah still stayed in playoff contention for most of this season under rookie head coach Will Hardy until a March swoon.
“It was obviously a little bit of a roller coaster, but it was a good time,” Olynyk said of the season. “It was fun. We saw a lot of potential in our group, a lot to build towards. It's definitely looking forward and promising.”
Simone Fontecchio added 20 points for Utah, which was without its top three scorers due to injuries and rest. The Jazz wrapped up the season without Lauri Markkanen, Collin Sexton, rookie Walker Kessler, Rudy Gay and former Lakers Jordan Clarkson and Talen Horton-Tucker.
Jazz rookie Ochai Agbaji was ejected in the third quarter, apparently for yelling at an official and throwing the ball too aggressively in his direction. Agbaji had eight points on 4-for-13 shooting.
“He decided to wait until the 82nd game to get a bad-boy image,” a smiling Hardy said of his mild-mannered guard.
Jazz: Olynyk shot Utah's first free throw early in the third quarter. ... Juan Toscano-Anderson had three points in 19 minutes against the team that traded him in February.
Lakers: Dennis Schröder sat out again with soreness in his right Achilles tendon. ... Beasley scored 13 points against his former team. ... Tristan Thompson and Shaq Harrison weren't available after signing with LA early Sunday.
- Derek Richardson
- Bill Kennedy
- Scott Twardoski