'Won't be forgotten': NBA fans rave over 'tense' grudge match

·Sports Reporter
·4-min read
LeBron James hit a game-winning three-pointer to win the NBA play-in against the Golden State Warriors. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
LeBron James hit a game-winning three-pointer to win the NBA play-in against the Golden State Warriors. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

The NBA's play-in tournament had earned a collective raised eyebrow from basketball fans after three somewhat lacklustre matchups - but then the Lakers and Warriors faced off.

The newly introduced play-in series has the 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th ranked teams at the end of the regular season face off for the final two playoff spots.

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The first three games of the play-in resulted in blowouts, but there was only one game that mattered to fans - Steph Curry's Warriors facing off against the reigning champion Los Angeles Lakers.

While the circumstances behind the Warriors, arguably the most dominant team of the late 2010s, and the Lakers finding themselves so far down in the standings is an interesting story of its own, their play-in match up lived up to the hype in every way.

After the Warriors got away to a lightning fast start in the first half, the Lakers managed to work their way back into the game thanks to a dogged defensive effort in the third quarter.

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It was a back-and-forth slugfest in the final quarter, with LeBron James hitting a desperation heave from long range with less than a minute to play to put the Lakers up by three points.

The Warriors had no answers for the Lakers defence afterwards, turning the ball over on the final play to see the reigning champs secure the seventh seed.

Golden State will face the Memphis Grizzlies for the eighth seed, after the Grizzlies defeated the San Antonio Spurs to advance to the final play-in game.

Both the Lakers and Warriors entered the play-in boasting impressive win streaks, and fans weren't left disappointed by the highly anticipated.

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LeBron James powers Lakers to play-in win over Golden State 

Despite playing in only four of the regular season's last 30 games, James posted a triple-double with 22 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists, and made a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give the Lakers their final lead.

In addition to James' lingering ankle issue, which Lakers coach Frank Vogel admitted wasn't full strength before the game, James also appeared to have an issue with his eye after taking smack in the face from Draymond Green on a foul.

"I was literally seeing three rims out there, so I just shot at the middle one," James said after the game.

The unsung MVP of the Lakers was Alex Caruso, who made a valiant effort defending Stephen Curry as the Warriors star frantically searched for any space he could find on the perimeter. 

Curry still posted 37 points, but he clearly could have had more. The NBA's top team in defensive efficiency ended up holding the Warriors to 44.6 percent shooting and forced 20 turnovers.

The Warriors ran up a 13-point lead over the course of the first half, with the help of an extended drought from the Lakers' most important players. 

James, Davis and Dennis Schroder combined to go just 4-of-28 from the field before halftime, while Curry found his shooting stroke enough end the first half with a buzzer-beating triple.

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