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The Lakers Survive The Play In And Their Reward Is A Rematch Against The Defending Champs

Jeff Haynes. Getty Images.

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Well, that was certainly a fantastic way to kick off the 2024 NBA Playoffs. I'd say this game had pretty much everything you could possibly want out of a playoff game. Stars playing out of their mind, huge comebacks, epic Kevin Harlan calls, big time shot making, and a game filled with drama that went down to the final few possessions. Dare I say this was playoff basketball at it's finest? And sure, it's a little unfortunate that the reward for winning a game like this is a chance to play this guy

Giphy Images.

but in terms of the game itself? Awesome. Exactly what I'm looking for this time of year and pretty much what we should come to expect for the next few months. Remember, this was only a Play In game! it may as well have been Game 7 of the NBA Finals given how it felt watching everything unfold in real time, and that's the beauty of playoff basketball. When everyone is trying and every possession and dribble matters, the product is unmatched. 

Now that the Lakers have pulled it out and have officially punched their ticket to a rematch with the Nuggets, that certainly isn't the worst outcome in the world given their history and the way the Lakers were talking heading into the season

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only to lose all 3 meetings during the year. For those not great at math, that's 8 straight losses against the Nuggets dating back to last year/last playoffs, which is certainly not great. You know the NBA is happy now that they have LeBron secured in the playoff field and can now market the shit out of LeBron vs Jokic, but I think most would agree that this is the matchup most want to see. Any time you have a chance at a WCF rematch and it happens in the first round, there's a good amount of juice to that series. It's similar to what we also might get in the East. Bad blood series are always welcomed where I come from, and that's what we have between those two teams. 

While it pains me to even type, you do have to give the Lakers their credit. They went on the road, shot 14-40 (40%) from deep, only turned it over 8 times, and made enough plays down the stretch to pull it out. Balanced scoring amongst the starters, just enough shot making by the bench, and the usual 29-15 FTA advantage is pretty much the Lakers formula.

For the Pelicans, you can't help but feel for them. Climbing all the way back into this game with Zion having the game of his life in his "playoff" debut

which to finally see after all these years was incredible. This was the version of Zion fans had prayed to one day be able to see, almost as if we were witnessing a turning point in his career. It was like 5 years of frustration all coming out at once, only for it to come crashing down at around 3 minutes in a tie game

I'm still not even really sure how Zion got hurt, but there's no way to spinzone something like that. Huge blow in a huge moment for a player who was virtually unstoppable while having the game of his life. That fucking sucks.

And as we saw down the stretch, the one thing that makes playoff games so massive and so unique is that everything comes down to the margins. A bad TO here and there like the Alvarado turnover in transition combined with helping off the strong side leaving a corner shooter wide open

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to not being able to box out AD on the biggest defensive possession of the game

These are the small plays around the margins that ultimately determine "playoff" games. When we get to this part of the year, you have to be on your shit. Mistakes that might not have really mattered in the regular season now put your entire season in jeopardy. That's what makes these games fun, but also what makes them devastating when you drop the ball and lose a huge game on your own floor.

The good news is the Pelicans season is not over. All they have to do is simply beat GS or SAC and they maybe get the easier playoff matchup. All you can do is hope for good news on Zion, watch the film, and turn the page. Win on Thursday and it's like this game never even happened. 

But seriously, if this is how we're starting the 2024 playoffs, consider me IN.