The field is set: Warriors, Clippers are in the playoffs


Golden State is in the playoffs. LeBron James is heading to the play-in tournament. And the Minnesota Timberwolves lost Rudy Gobert to a fight with a teammate, then won a fight to improve their playoff hopes.

The final day of the NBA season was predictably wild – with tons of unpredictable elements as well.

It took until the 1,230th and last game of the year went final, but the Western Conference playoff and play-in bracket are finally set, highlighted by the Los Angeles Clippers and defending champion Golden State Warriors getting a few days off knowing that they’re officially in the postseason.

The Clippers beat Phoenix to clinch the No. 5 seed – and a first-round matchup with Phoenix. Golden State had its highest-scoring game in almost 33 years on its way to routing Portland 157-101 and clinching the No. 6 seed, giving the Warriors an automatic berth in the playoffs and a first-round matchup with Sacramento.

Golden State led by as many as 59 in that game, the largest lead by any team all season.

James and the No. 7 – for now – Los Angeles Lakers will get two chances to get into the playoffs, starting with Tuesday’s play-in game against No. 8 Minnesota. If the Lakers lose that game, they’ll get another chance Friday against the winner of Wednesday’s game between No. 9 New Orleans and No. 10 Oklahoma City.

The Lakers-Timberwolves winner gets No. 2 Memphis in Round 1; the winner of Friday’s West play-in game will start the playoffs next Sunday at No. 1 Denver.

No team in the West has had a better record since the All-Star break than the Lakers, who went 16-7 down the stretch – even with James sidelined for about half of that run by injury.

Minnesota locked up the No. 8 seed (and two chances at the playoffs) by holding off New Orleans 113-108.

It was the last game to finish in the league this season, though for Gobert, it ended early. He threw a punch at Kyle Anderson – his teammate – during a first-half time-out, didn’t return to the game, and Minnesota also lost Jaden McDaniels to a right hand injury after he appeared to punch a wall.

“We made the decision to send Rudy Gobert home after the incident in the second quarter,” Timberwolves President Tim Connelly said in a postgame statement. “His behavior on the bench was unacceptable and we will continue handling the situation internally.”

If the Timberwolves lost that game, they would have been the No. 9 seed out West. There were 16 possible ways the 5-6-7-8-9 seeds on the West bracket could have gone on Sunday – and the Pelicans had a shot to finish as high as No. 5. Instead, they settled for No. 9.

The Eastern Conference postseason matchups were all set before Sunday. No. 7 Miami plays No. 8 Atlanta on Tuesday, and No. 9 Toronto plays No. 10 Chicago on Wednesday. The Heat-Hawks winner advances to play No. 2 Boston in Round 1; the Raptors-Bulls winner will play the Heat-Hawks loser on Friday for the chance to play No. 1 Milwaukee in the opening round.

No. 3 Philadelphia will play No. 6 Brooklyn, and No. 4 Cleveland will meet No. 5 New York.

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AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports


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