Last night was the series finale of the NBA regular-season. Game 82, for most teams is usually meaningless in terms of post-season impact. This season has been a bit more eventful than most as the Timberwolves and Nuggets duked it out in a winner-take-all game. Also Portland, Utah, San Antonio, New Orleans etc. all played games with postseason seeding implications.
In the Staples Center Wednesday evening, the Lakers and Clippers matched-up in a game with zero postseason implications due to both teams already being eliminated from playoff contention. Don’t tell the Lakers it was a meaningless game though as Josh Hart (who dropped 30 last night) said, “We all want each other to succeed. We were eliminated from playoff contention and no one went out on their own. Every game until the end of the season, we played hard, competed and played for each other.”
Gary Payton II earned 30 mins off the bench in large part due to injuries or rest to players like Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Isaiah Thomas and Lonzo Ball. How did he do? He went out and posted a career-high 25 points and nabbed 12 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 assist and was a +22 when he was on the court. The Lakers beat the Clippers for the first time since April 4, 2012, as the visiting team and finished the season with 35 wins, their most since 2012-13. As a team, the Lakers tied their season high with 17 3-pointers, including three each by Payton, Alex Caruso and Brook Lopez.
The big story Tuesday night in the NBA was another fellow Laker, Andre Ingram. The “rookie” spent a decade in the G-League and was finally called up to the NBA at 32-years of age. Andre Ingram hit four 3-pointers and scored 19 points of the bench. Ingram came down to earth a little bit on Wednesday night and finished with five points on 2-of-9 shooting and had six assists in 33 minutes.
The Lakers will be going all-in during the free agency period this summer to try and land superstars like Paul George and LeBron James. Regardless of what happens they should still have roster space for Gary Payton II next season and if not I’m confident another NBA team will offer him a contract.