LeBron James’ Lakers take on Pelicans as NBA play-in tips off

LeBron James will embark on his 21st NBA campaign as the Los Angeles Lakers face off against the New Orleans Pelicans in the NBA play-in tournament on Tuesday. The winner of this matchup will secure a playoff spot and advance to meet the defending champion Denver Nuggets.

The Lakers wrapped up the regular season with a commanding victory over the Pelicans, but James is wary of underestimating a motivated Pelicans team looking for redemption.

“They’re going to be extremely ready for us, and we have to come in with the same sense of urgency,” said James.

The losing team will have one more opportunity to earn a playoff spot, facing off against the victor of the game between the ninth-seeded Sacramento Kings and the 10th-placed Golden State Warriors, with a chance to secure a first-round clash with the Western Conference top seeds, the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Last season, the Lakers fought their way through the play-in tournament to reach the Western Conference finals, only to be swept by the Denver Nuggets. Meanwhile, the Miami Heat defied the odds by clinching the eighth seed in the East and advancing to the NBA Finals, where they ultimately fell to the Nuggets.

As the Heat head to Philadelphia to take on the 76ers, they aim to replicate their previous success. The winner of this matchup will set up a first-round showdown with the Eastern Conference second seeds, the New York Knicks.

“We’ve had some great battles with (Miami). I always expect that versus them,” said 76ers coach Nick Nurse.

Despite Joel Embiid sitting out the final game of the regular season for rest, Philadelphia coach Nurse is confident that the reigning NBA Most Valuable Player will be back in action against Miami. The Sixers have an impressive record of 31-8 with Embiid on the court this season.

The loser of the Heat-76ers game will face the winner of the Atlanta Hawks and Chicago Bulls matchup for the final playoff spot in the East, with a chance to challenge the top-seeded Boston Celtics in the first round.

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