If You Don’t Want Play-In Games, Don’t Make 34-Foot Buzzer-Beating Game Winners

Last night's highly anticipated game between the No. 7 Lakers and No. 8 Warriors exceeded all expectations

LeBron James
LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers hits a game-winning 3-pointer.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty

Nearly 80% of NBA fans were in favor of the league introducing the play-in format that led to the Los Angeles Lakers hosting the Golden State Warriors last night, and after seeing the two teams go at it, it’s easy to see why.

LeBron James, who said the person who came up with idea for the play-in should be fired, put on a show despite playing on an injured ankle, posting a triple-double with 10 assists, 11 rebounds and 22 points.

James’s final three points came moments after he was poked in the eye by Golden State forward Draymond Green when he drained a go-ahead shot-clock-beater from 34 feet away from the basket with 58.2 seconds remaining. The bucket, which proved to be the game-winner, was his longest make of the season and also the longest go-ahead shot in the final three minutes of any game in his career, according to ESPN Stats and Information.

Steph Curry, who closed out James when he made the game-winner, scored a game-high 37 points on 12-of-23 shooting and went 6-of-9 on 3-pointers, but it wasn’t enough to help Golden State stave off a late Los Angeles rally in a 103-100 game that featured much better defense than those numbers suggest.

“After the finger to the eye, I was seeing three rims and shot at the middle one. By grace, I was able to knock it down,” James told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols after the game. “I’ve been poked in the eye before. It is going to be sore tonight and tomorrow, but we got a big-time win.”

James appeared to tell Curry something similar after the friendly rivals shared a moment following the game. Curry didn’t seem to be buying what the reigning NBA Finals MVP was selling.

“It’s a great shot,” Curry said of the game-winner. “Broken play … thinking he was kind of out of the play, they found him, he got his balance just in time and knocked it down. That was a tough one because you don’t really expect it to go in. You expect us to get the rebound and have a possession to take the lead. But everything changed when it goes in. All-time great players make great shots, that’s what happens.”

With the win, the Lakers will play the second-seeded Phoenix Suns in the first round of the NBA playoffs starting on Sunday. The Warriors will host the Memphis Grizzlies at Chase Center on Friday with a ticket to move on and play the top-seeded Utah Jazz on the line.

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