LEBRON James beat the shot clock with a 34-foot, tie-breaking 3-pointer with 58.2 seconds remaining Wednesday night, sending the Los Angeles Lakers to a 103-100 victory over the visiting Golden State Warriors in a Western Conference play-in game.
The victory gives the Lakers the seventh seed in the West playoffs main draw and a first-round matchup with the second-seeded Phoenix Suns in a series that begins Sunday.
The Warriors, who finished eighth in the regular season, will get a second shot at a playoff berth, but they now must beat No. 9 Memphis in San Francisco on Friday.
The Grizzlies earned the right to face the Warriors in the win-or-go-home game by beating the 10th-seeded San Antonio Spurs 100-96 earlier Wednesday evening.
Down 55-42 at half time, the Lakers rallied within 79-77 by the third quarter’s end and then into a lead early in the fourth period.
However, the Warriors, who finished the regular season with six consecutive wins, forged one last tie at 100-all on two Stephen Curry free throws with 1:23 remaining.
That’s when James, standing well outside the 3-point arc, took a pass late in the shot clock and threw up a desperation attempt that went through the hoop and gave Los Angeles the lead for good.
The Warriors had two chances to tie, but Jordan Poole misfired on a 3-point attempt with 35.5 seconds remaining, and Golden State couldn’t get off a shot on a final possession that began when they inbounded the ball with 2.1 seconds to go.
Anthony Davis finished with a team-high 25 points and James had 22 for the Lakers, the defending NBA champions who had just the seventh-best record in the West in the regular season.
James completed a triple-double with 11 rebounds and a game-high 10 assists, while Davis grabbed a team-high 12 rebounds.
Alex Caruso chipped in with 14 points off the bench, Dennis Schroder had 12 and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope 10 for the Lakers, who won despite being outshot 44.6 percent to 40.7 percent overall and were outscored 45-30 on 3-pointers.
Curry poured in a game-high 37 points for the Warriors, who beat Memphis at home on the final day of the regular season to earn the eighth seed in the play-in tournament.
Andrew Wiggins put up 21 points, while Poole and Kent Bazemore added 10 apiece for Golden State. Kevon Looney was the game’s leading rebounder with 13.
Having lost their last two regular-season meetings to the Lakers by a combined 57 points, the Warriors wasted no time asserting themselves on the biggest stage, bolting out to a 15-4 advantage en route to a 55-42 halftime lead.
Curry had 15 points in the half, outscoring James (six) and Davis (five) combined.
The Lakers shot just 32.6 percent in the half. James was 1-for-7, Davis 2-for-12. — Reuters