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SAD NEWS: Darvin Ham to the fans LeBron James wont be available for the finals

So, it has come down to this, the Lakers facing a season finale loaded with meaning for both teams, as they travel to New Orleans for Game 82. The Pelicans need a win, as they’re fighting to stave off the Phoenix Suns and remain out of the play-in tournament. And the Lakers need a victory to secure the No. 8 seed, a spot that allows them the opportunity to get into the playoffs with just one win.

Fall to No. 9 and the Lakers will need to win a home game, then another on the road to get into the playoffs. Drop all the way to No. 10 and the Lakers must win two road games to get out of the play-in and survive into the postseason.

The Lakers have gone 2-1 against the Pelicans this year, and have averaged 127.0 points, the second-most points they’ve averaged against any team in the West (Utah, 131.3, is the most).

For star forward LeBron James, the formula for this team now is pretty simple. In fact, when he was asked what the top-line item for dealing with the Pelicans would be, he had just one word: “Win.”

He was asked a follow-up, for more specifics about the matchup. He stuck with his original answer: “Win.”

 Seeding Matters

So that will be the modus operandi for the Lakers for the rest of the way. They simply need to win, and keep winning, starting on Sunday. They will keep No. 8 and play either Phoenix or New Orleans again with a win.

If they do not win, they could drop all the way to No. 10, because they do not have tiebreaker advantages over the Kings or Warriors. The Kings play the Blazers and the Warriors face the Jazz. Both teams are playing at home, against teams that are well out of the playoff mix. If the Lakers lose and one of the Kings or Warriors win, the Lakers would be No. 9.

In that scenario, the Lakers would host the first play-in game, and would have to face the loser of the No. 7 vs 8 game on the road.

The buzzwords, as James said, is, “Win.” But that does not mean the seeding does not matter.

“Of course it matters,” James noted. “Every game matters. Every seed matters. But however you fall, you can’t play in the past. But absolutely, I can’t sit here and say I would rather be where we are than the No. 1 seed. Of course, seeds matter. But wherever you fall, you take that challenge.”

Still, much can be done coming out of the play-in special. The Miami Heat made the NBA Finals after starting out as a play-in team a year ago.

The Lakers are well aware. Last year, the Lakers needed an overtime win against the Timberwolves in the play-in tournament to secure the No. 7 seed in the postseason.

From there, they played a Memphis team that lacked experience and had been dealt a blow to team chemistry with the loss of center Steven Adams and the suspension of Ja Morant, who missed three weeks in March.

The Lakers were able to dispose of the No. 2 Grizzlies in the first round, then knocked off the worn-out and aging Warriors in Round 2. That paved the way for a trip to the West finals for the Lakers.

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