Lakers hold on after Zion’s injury; Does Warriors flame out mean end of an era for Golden State?

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Good morning to everyone but especially …

THE LOS ANGELES LAKERS

They’re baaaack. The Lakers slugged out a 110-106 win over the Pelicans to claim the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference. Los Angeles blew an 18-point lead but made its final 14 free throws — including six in the final 15 seconds — to hold on and earn a date with the defending champion Nuggets in the first round.

The Lakers have never lost a play-in game, and they have the usual suspects to thank for that. LeBron James narrowly missed out on a triple-double with 23 points, nine rebounds and nine assists, Anthony Davis had 20 points and 15 rebounds, and D’Angelo Russell added 21 points, including five 3-pointers. Crucially, Los Angeles only turned the ball over eight times and forced 13 turnovers.

On the other side, the game of a lifetime ended with the disappointment of a lifetime. After a game-tying floater with 3:19 left gave him 40 points in his first career postseason game, Zion Williamson grimaced and was subbed out seconds later with what the team later deemed “left leg soreness.” He’ll undergo further imaging today.

It’s unfortunate, but this is Williamson’s career in a nutshell. The signs of greatness are obvious. He’s a ridiculous athlete with absurd body control, touch around the rim, strength, size and explosiveness. He also can’t stay healthy, and his injuries come at the most inopportune times. His chance at a true legacy game ended with him in the locker room. Every score is breathtaking. Every wince makes you hold your breath. Brad Botkin has thoughts on Williamson’s magnificence and everything else from the game.

Honorable mentions

And not such a good morning for …


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THE GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS

It was clear and obvious for all to see: the Kings ran up and down the court and blew the doors off a Warriors team that looked creaky and obsolete. The exact score — 118-94 — may just be a couple of numbers that will be lost in history, but they signify so much more.

If this is the end of the Stephen CurryDraymond GreenKlay Thompson big three that offered glorious, historic highs, they went out on a brutal low.

  • Curry scored 22 points but had six turnovers and was the only reliable offensive facilitator, a problem Golden State had all season.
  • In all, Golden State turned the ball over 16 times, were outscored 12-6 on fast break points and gave up 15 offensive rebounds.
  • As a team, the Kings were a blistering 46.2% (18 of 39) from beyond the arc, while the Warriors were a subpar 31.3% (10 of 32), about seven points off their season average.
  • Thompson produced the biggest dud of all: an 0-for-10 shooting performance, the worst of his career. It could be his last game with the team, Sam Quinn writes.

So ends a season that saw Green receive a lengthy suspension featuring NBA-mandated counseling, Curry grow visibly frustrated with Green’s antics and Thompson produce arguably his worst full season since he was a rookie. Around those three, Andrew Wiggins fell off, Chris Paul missed the playoffs for the first time since 2010, and youngsters Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody showed promising signs, but weren’t enough to overcome myriad issues elsewhere.

The franchise’s foundation has at long last collapsed, Colin Ward-Henninger writes.

  • Ward-Henninger: “The Warriors seem to think that running it back with the same core can yield another championship, but the NBA’s Magic 8 Ball seems to be telling them ‘Outlook Not So Good.’ Even with minor tweaks this offseason, we may have already seen Curry, Thompson, Green and [coach Steve] Kerr raising the Larry O’Brien trophy together for the last time.”

Finally, let’s give enormous credit to the Kings. De’Aaron Fox is a legitimate superstar, Domantas Sabonis is as tough as they come, and Keegan Murray — whose selection was widely panned two years ago — knocked down eight 3s en route to a 32-point night. Keon Ellis and Davion Mitchell provided energy, some clutch shooting and terrific backcourt defense. Sacramento will travel to New Orleans for the No. 8 seed game Friday.

Not so honorable mentions

  • Kawhi Leonard is uncertain for Game 1 against the Mavericks.
  • Christian Yelich (back) is on the IL. Same for Ozzie Albies (fractured toe).
  • Donte DiVincenzo being ineligible for Most Improved Player is ridiculous.
  • Michigan received NCAA penalties from its recruiting violations.
  • The Sabres fired Don Granato.
  • Yuniesky Betancourt was accused of staging an accident, insurance fraud, organized scheme to defraud and grand theft.

Eastern Conference Play-In Tournament preview


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The Play-In Tournament swings to the Eastern Conference tonight, with the (7) 76ers battling the (8) Heat for the No. 7 seed (preview) followed by the (9) Bulls and (10) Hawks hoping to keep their season alive (preview).

You never want to doubt Eric Spoelstra, Jimmy Butler & Co. come the postseason, and Joel Embiid and the 76ers have given us plenty of reasons to doubt them in these scenarios. But Philadelphia has also won eight straight, including a victory over Miami less two weeks ago. Here’s Jasmyn Wimbish’s prediction:

  • Wimbish: Bam Adebayo offers a solid option to defend Embiid, but even he won’t be able to stop the Philly big man from getting his points and, more importantly, getting to the free-throw line. Having Embiid back also opens things up for Tyrese Maxey, who can operate with more space and less defensive attention. …  I don’t see how the Heat stop Embiid, and the Sixers’ supporting cast feels more reliable than the Heat’s. The Pick: Sixers -4.5″

UEFA Champions League: PSG, Borussia Dortmund flip script, previewing today


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There’s no drama like UEFA Champions League drama. And Tuesday delivered it. Both PSG and Borussia Dortmund overcame first-leg deficits to make the semifinals.

Let’s start with Les Parisiens, which throttled Barcelona, 4-1, after losing the first leg, 3-2. A dream start — Raphinha‘s 12th-minute goal — quickly turned into a nightmare for Barca: Ronald Araujo was red carded in the 29th minute, Ousmane Dembele, Vitinha and Kylian Mbappe (twice) all scored for the visitors, and even Barcelona coach Xavi got red carded for his sideline outburst. Chuck Booth weighed Barcelona’s future.

Borussia Dortmund, meanwhile, ran rampant over Atletico Madrid, 4-2, to win 5-4 on aggregate. Niclas Füllkrug and Marcel Sabitzer tallied in the 71st and 74th minute, respectively tilting things in the hosts’ favor for good and sending the home crowd into delirium. Dortmund learned its lesson from the first leg, Pardeep Cattry writes.

Today, Manchester City and Real Madrid meet, tied 3-3 on aggregate (preview), and Bayern Munich and Arsenal look to break a 2-2 deadlock (preview). Our expert picks are in, and for Manchester City-Real Madrid, James Benge says …

  • Benge:Manchester City 2, Real Madrid 0 — Strange things tend to happen when these two run into each other, but, for the most part, City have proven themselves to be a superior side to Madrid, just one vulnerable to the inherent randomness of knockout football. Barring another serving of that, expect City’s quality to shine through.”

James also has key players for today, and Tom Fornelli has made his Corner Picks.

Colorado loses several players as football transfer portal opens


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The football transfer portal is open again, and judging by first day, the next two weeks will be a whirlwind. Much of the movement, it appears, will involve Colorado.

The Buffaloes saw a bevy of players hit the portal, including the top cornerback in the 2023 recruiting class, Cormani McClain. He never made much of an impact, and Deion Sanders hinted at McClain’s lack of preparation back in September. McClain becomes the No. 3 uncommitted player in the 247Sports Transfer Portal rankings.

The Buffaloes lost many other players to the portal, including starting right tackle Savion Washington.

Here’s more from the portal:

What we’re watching Wednesday

Manchester City vs. Real Madrid, 3 p.m. on CBS and Paramount+
Bayern Munich vs. Arsenal, 3 p.m. on Paramount+
Heat at 76ers, 7 p.m. on ESPN
Maple Leafs at Lightning, 7 p.m. on TNT
Hawks at Bulls, 9:30 p.m. on ESPN
Blues at Stars, 9:30 p.m. on TNT


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