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Los Angeles Lakers, LA Clippers welcoming fans back for home games in April

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LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Lakers and LA Clippers are planning to welcome fans back to Staples Center for a game for the first time this season.

The Lakers are finalizing plans to have fans in attendance when they play the Boston Celtics on April 15. The Clippers are planning on fans returning for their home games starting on April 18 against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Both teams announced plans for fans to return to Staples Center with the state of California announcing that Los Angeles County has transitioned into the orange tier. The Lakers and Clippers said that they will work with the L.A. County Department of Public Health and Staples Center to determine guidelines for hosting fans safely at home games this season. The Clippers said their plan is for “a certain number of fans” to be in attendance at the game against the Timberwolves.

“That’s going to be super exciting for our whole community,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said before his team faced the Kings in Sacramento. “I know our guys, our coaches, our organization internally will be really excited about it. I think the players on the floor will notice the energy that our fans bring.

“Obviously we don’t know exactly how many fans will be there yet, but just having some in there will bring us great energy, and I’m just happy for the L.A. community. It’s one of everybody’s favorite things to do is go to Lakers games, and they haven’t been able to do that during this pandemic. So just really excited about this news.”

The Lakers and Clippers recently received permission from the L.A. County Health Department to have 50 guests at games in accordance with protocols for TV and award show productions in L.A. County.

Starting with the game against Minnesota, the Clippers have six home games that could have fans, including a home game against the Lakers on May 6. With the game against Boston, the Lakers will have nine home games remaining that could have fans in attendance.

The Kings issued a statement Friday saying the team “looks forward to safely welcoming fans back to the arena in the near future.”

The Golden State Warriors said the team is “in ongoing conversations” with city health officials about safely returning fans to Chase Center and hoped to have details soon.

ESPN’s Dave McMenamin contributed to this report.

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NBA insiders: What are the odds the Lakers and Celtics make it out of the play-in?

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Our NBA Insiders analyze how each play-in team either makes the playoffs or finds itself on the outside looking in.

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NBA playoff watch – Phoenix Suns slows Portland Trail Blazers’ roll; San Antonio Spurs clinch play-in

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With the addition of play-in games to the 2021 NBA playoffs, the scramble for seeding is wilder — and more important — than ever, with almost every game down the stretch having significant postseason implications.

Play-in matchups following Thursday’s games

Play-in games to be held May 18-21

How the play-in tournament will work

Current NBA standings

EAST

Game 1: No. 8 Charlotte at No. 7 Boston — winner is No. 7 seed in playoffs

Game 2: No. 10 Washington at No. 9 Indiana — winner moves on in play-in; loser is eliminated

Game 3: Washington/Indiana winner at Boston/Charlotte loser — winner is No. 8 seed in playoffs

WEST

Game 1: No. 8 Golden State at No. 7 Los Angeles Lakers — winner is No. 7 seed in playoffs

Game 2: No. 10 San Antonio at No. 9 Memphis — winner moves on in play-in; loser is eliminated

Game 3: Memphis/San Antonio winner at Lakers/Golden State loser — winner is No. 8 seed in playoffs


Teams that clinched Thursday

Already in

EAST

Playoff spots: Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets, Milwaukee Bucks, Miami Heat, Atlanta Hawks, New York Knicks

Play-in spots (seeds 7-10): Boston Celtics, Charlotte Hornets, Indiana Pacers

WEST

Playoff spots: Utah Jazz, Phoenix Suns, LA Clippers, Denver Nuggets

Play-in spots: Golden State Warriors, Memphis Grizzlies, San Antonio Spurs


Here’s a breakdown of the key games from Thursday and what the results mean for the seedings:

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0:32

Devin Booker is fouled on the shot with 2.4 seconds remaining in regulation and hits both free throws for the Suns’ win.

The Portland Trail Blazers were four seconds away from officially locking in a spot in the top six, but two free throws by Devin Booker gave the Phoenix Suns a one-point win, and kept Portland from celebrating a playoff spot for at least another day.

The Blazers close their season on Sunday against the Nuggets, but if the Los Angeles Lakers lose on Saturday to the Indiana Pacers, it would guarantee Portland no worse than sixth. But if the Blazers lose their finale, and the Lakers win both of their last two games, it would drop Portland into the play-in spot and boost the Lakers to sixth.

The Blazers had been on a roll to get to this spot, winning their last five and nine of their last 10.

The loss does complicate the Blazers’ push for the 5-seed, though. They fall a game behind the Dallas Mavericks, and while they have the tiebreaker with Dallas in hand, they need a Mavs loss to either the Raptors or Timberwolves in one of their last two games. — Royce Young


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0:16

Trae Young shakes his defender, crosses over and pulls up for the high-percentage bucket.

In the race to finish fourth in the East, wins across the board upheld the status quo among the Atlanta Hawks, Miami Heat and New York Knicks Thursday night.

The Hawks took a big step toward securing that fourth seed with an emphatic 116-93 win over the hapless Orlando Magic. The win leaves Atlanta with one final game on Sunday against the league-worst Houston Rockets. If Atlanta wins that game, and the Knicks and Heat win out, the Hawks will win the Southeast Division and clinch the fourth seed.

The Miami Heat, meanwhile, blew out the Philadelphia 76ers, keeping the Heat in line to finish fifth. Miami owns the tiebreaker over the Knicks, so if all three teams remain tied until the end of the regular season, Miami would get the fifth seed. The Heat have two games left — at Milwaukee on Saturday and at Detroit on Sunday.

New York picked up a victory, as well, though it was a far more difficult one to get, as the Knicks eventually came away with a 102-98 victory over the San Antonio Spurs at Madison Square Garden.

The Knicks play the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday, and the Boston Celtics on Sunday.

If two of the trio of Atlanta, New York and Miami are tied at the end of the season, here is how the tiebreaker scenarios break out:

  • Atlanta wins the tiebreaker with Miami

  • Miami wins the tiebreaker with New York

  • New York wins the tiebreaker with Atlanta

Losses by Charlotte and Indiana Thursday night also officially lock the Celtics into the seventh seed in the East, and they will host the 7-8 game in the NBA’s inaugural play-in tournament next Tuesday. Charlotte and Indiana are tied with 33 wins, while the Washington Wizards have 32. — Tim Bontemps


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0:36

Coby White gets out in transition and throws down a monster jam on Stanley Johnson.

With the Chicago Bulls beating the Toronto Raptors Thursday night, Chicago still has very slim hopes of making the play-in tournament. It would still require a lot — the Wizards losing their final two games, and the Bulls winning their final two — but that’s better than having no chance at all. — Bontemps


Unlike the Bulls, the Sacramento Kings don’t have a chance at all after losing to the Memphis Grizzlies Thursday night. The Kings needed to win out and have the Spurs lose out, but Thursday’s loss will officially extend Sacramento’s league-leading playoff drought to 15 years. The Spurs, meanwhile, backed into the No. 10 slot in the West.

Memphis kept itself in the running for the chance to finish with the eighth seed in the Western Conference with the win. Sunday’s game against the Golden State Warriors will be, essentially, a one-game playoff for the eighth playoff spot in the West, which means the difference between having to win one of two games to make the playoffs, or having to win two in a row. — Bontemps


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0:19

The Clippers run the pick-and-roll, with Rajon Rondo finding Kawhi Leonard with a slick pass for a lay-in plus the foul.

Nic Batum enjoyed his return to Charlotte.

Deemed expendable last season when the Charlotte Hornets went with their youth movement, Batum scored 11 points and hit two 3s to help the Los Angeles Clippers take a 113-90 win.

With help from Batum, the Clippers played better than they have of late and continue to hold on to the third seed ahead of Denver with two games remaining at Houston and Oklahoma City.

For the Hornets, this was a game they needed. They remain tied with the Indiana Pacers. Charlotte, which owns the tiebreaker for the No. 8 seed over Indiana, has lost three straight and can use Miles Bridges back for the final two games of the season against the Knicks and Wizards. — Ohm Youngmisuk

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East seeds 4, 5 and 6 hold serve

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With the addition of play-in games to the 2021 NBA playoffs, the scramble for seeding is wilder — and more important — than ever, with almost every game down the stretch having significant postseason implications.

Play-in matchups following Wednesday’s games

Play-in games to be held May 18-21

How the play-in tournament will work

Current NBA standings

EAST

Game 1: No. 8 Charlotte at No. 7 Boston — winner is No. 7 seed in playoffs

Game 2: No. 10 Washington at No. 9 Indiana — winner moves on in play-in; loser is eliminated

Game 3: Washington/Indiana winner at Boston/Charlotte loser — winner is No. 8 seed in playoffs

WEST

Game 1: No. 8 Golden State at No. 7 Los Angeles Lakers — winner is No. 7 seed in playoffs

Game 2: No. 10 San Antonio at No. 9 Memphis — winner moves on in play-in; loser is eliminated

Game 3: Memphis/San Antonio winner at Lakers/Golden State loser — winner is No. 8 seed in playoffs


Teams that clinched Thursday

Already in

EAST

Playoff spots: Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets, Milwaukee Bucks, Miami Heat, Atlanta Hawks, New York Knicks

Play-in spots (seeds 7-10): Boston Celtics, Charlotte Hornets, Indiana Pacers

WEST

Playoff spots: Utah Jazz, Phoenix Suns, LA Clippers, Denver Nuggets

Play-in spots: Golden State Warriors, Memphis Grizzlies, San Antonio Spurs


Here’s a breakdown of the key games from Thursday and what the results mean for the seedings:

play

0:16

Trae Young shakes his defender, crosses over and pulls up for the high-percentage bucket.

In the race to finish fourth in the East, wins across the board left things status quo among the Atlanta Hawks, Miami Heat and New York Knicks Thursday night.

The Hawks took a big step toward securing that fourth seed with an emphatic 116-93 win over the hapless Orlando Magic. The win leaves Atlanta with one final game on Sunday against the league-worst Houston Rockets. If Atlanta wins that game, and the Knicks and Heat win out, the Hawks will win the Southeast Division and clinch the fourth seed.

The Miami Heat, meanwhile, blew out the Philadelphia 76ers, keeping them in line to finish fifth. Miami owns the tiebreaker over the New York Knicks, so if all three teams remain tied until the end of the regular season, Miami would get the fifth seed. The Heat have two games left — at Milwaukee on Saturday and at Detroit on Sunday.

New York picked up a victory, as well, though it was a far more difficult one to get, as the Knicks eventually came away with a 102-98 victory over the San Antonio Spurs at Madison Square Garden.

The Knicks play the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday, and the Boston Celtics on Sunday.

If two of the trio of Atlanta, New York and Miami are tied at the end of the season, here are how the tiebreaker scenarios break out:

  • Atlanta wins the tiebreaker with Miami

  • Miami wins the tiebreaker with New York

  • New York wins the tiebreaker with Atlanta

Charlotte and Indiana losing Thursday night also officially locks the Celtics into the seventh seed in the East, and they will host the 7-8 game in the NBA’s inaugural play-in tournament next Tuesday. Charlotte and Indiana are tied with 33 wins, while the Washington Wizards have 32. — Tim Bontemps

play

0:36

Coby White gets out in transition and throws down a monster jam on Stanley Johnson.

With the Chicago Bulls beating the Toronto Raptors Thursday night, Chicago still has very slim hopes of making the play-in tournament. It would still require a lot — the Wizards losing their final two games, and the Bulls winning their final two — but that’s better than having no chance at all.

The Sacramento Kings, on the other hand, don’t have a chance at all after losing to the Memphis Grizzlies Thursday night. The Kings needed to win out and the Spurs needed to lose out, but Thursday’s loss will officially extend Sacramento’s league-leading playoff drought to 15 years. The Spurs, meanwhile, backed into the No. 10 slot in the West.

Memphis kept itself in the running for the chance to finish with the eighth seed in the Western Conference with the win. If the Grizzlies beat the Kings again Friday, it will ensure that Sunday’s game against the Golden State Warriors will be, essentially, a one-game playoff for the eighth playoff spot in the West, which means the difference between having to win one of two games to make the playoffs, or having to win two in a row. — Bontemps


play

0:19

The Clippers run the pick-and-roll, with Rajon Rondo finding Kawhi Leonard with a slick pass for a lay-in plus the foul.

Nic Batum enjoyed his return to Charlotte.

Deemed expendable last season when the Charlotte Hornets went with their youth movement, Batum scored 11 points and hit two 3’s to help the Los Angeles Clippers take a 113-90 win.

With help from Batum, the Clippers played better than they have of late and continue to hold on to the third seed ahead of Denver with two games remaining at Houston and Oklahoma City.

For the Hornets, this was a game they needed. They remain tied with the Indiana Pacers. Charlotte, which owns the tiebreaker for the No. 8 seed over Indiana, has lost three straight and can use Miles Bridges back for the final two games of the season against the Knicks and Wizards. — Ohm Youngmisuk

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