Even after the Lakers beat the Pelicans in New Orleans on the final day of the 2020-21 regular season for their fifth straight win, it couldn't help them in avoiding the Play-In Tournament with the Trail Blazers taking care of their business with a home win against the Denver Nuggets.
This meant, at the final buzzer, the defending champions already knew their fate - the Play-In Tournament with a 7-8 clash against the Golden State Warriors - which led to plenty of discussion postgame in the build-up to this next game.
While Frank Vogel and Anthony Davis gave the Warriors their due and discussed what a problem Stephen Curry is. LeBron James went one step further.
"We're playing, in my opinion, the MVP of our league this year in Steph," James said while previewing the Play-In game.
"Our paths have been crossed again. There's always been a level of respect that's beyond the game of basketball." @KingJames on why he believes @StephenCurry30 is this year's NBA MVP. pic.twitter.com/w7E6v75nSO- Spectrum SportsNet (@SpectrumSN) May 17, 2021
This head-to-head will be the fifth time James and Curry will face off in the last seven postseasons including four straight NBA Finals battles between 2014 and 2018.
While James missed time with a high ankle sprain and played only 44 games this season, Curry played 63 and finished as the league's scoring champion with a points average of 32.0.
The Warriors have shown their class this season by making sure effort isn't an issue with their fifth-best defence in the league, but Curry's explosive season has been a huge reason for the team finishing as the eighth seed.
Just take a look at the comparison of the team's offence with and without him.
The Warriors offense this season- StatMuse (@statmuse) May 16, 2021
Steph ON: 10th in the league
Steph OFF: Worst in the last 5 years
MVP-level impact. pic.twitter.com/5jbKHhr7GZ
"Just look what he's done this year," James said explaining his MVP pick.
"Everybody counted him out this year, everybody is saying without Klay he can't lead a team on his own…He's done that and more…If Steph is not on Golden State's team then what are we looking at?"
James nailed it. Despite missing a perennial All-Star in Klay Thompson, Curry's play this year has helped the Warriors finish with a 39-33 record, a huge improvement from their 15-win season last year.
Both teams will have a couple of days to prepare for this 7-8 Play-In game, the winner of which will be the seventh seed in the Conference. while the loser plays the winner of the 9-10 Play-In game to decide the eighth seed.
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