Lakers’ Darvin Ham blasts ‘insane asylum sources’ who said team should tank Play-In game vs. Pelicans

The Los Angeles Lakers held off a fourth-quarter charge from the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday night to win the Western Conference 7 vs. 8 Play-In Game, 110-106. With their victory, the Lakers secured the No. 7 seed in the West playoffs, and will meet the defending champion Denver Nuggets in the first round. 

Because of how the bracket was set up, there was some chatter ahead of time about whether the Lakers would be better off tanking the game versus the Pelicans to avoid the Nuggets in the first round. Of course, the risk with that strategy was that a loss in the second round of the Play-In Tournament would have sent them home. 

When a reporter brought up the topic during Darvin Ham’s post-game press conference on Tuesday, the Lakers’ coach laughed off the suggestion that his team would have intentionally lost a game. 

“There was a report of what?” Ham said. “Insane asylum sources say Nah. It was someone that just got out of the insane asylum.”

Anthony Davis, likewise, had no time for such an idea. 

“Mess with the game and it will mess with you,” Davis said.

While the Lakers were never going to purposefully put themselves in a spot where one loss meant they were eliminated from the playoffs before they even started, a first-round matchup with the Nuggets is as hard as it gets. 

The Nuggets swept them in the Western Conference finals last season and won all three meetings during this regular season. You have to go back to Dec. 16, 2022, to find the last time the Lakers won a game against Nikola Jokic and Co. Add in the fact that the Nuggets, who have homecourt advantage in the series, were 33-8 at home this season and the Lakers were under .500 on the road, and all signs point to the Nuggets advancing. 

Even the Lakers are aware of the uphill battle they face. 

“It’s the defending champion,” LeBron James said. “They know what it takes. They know how to win. They’ve been extremely dominant on their home floor over the last few years. They’ve got an MVP on their team. They’ve got a closer on their team. They’ve got high-level players, high-IQ players. And they’ve got a hell of a coach.

“So, we have to play mistake-free basketball. Make it tough on them. They’re going to try to make it tough on us, obviously. But if we can play as great of a game as we can play, and they’re going to play as great of a game as they play, it’s going come down to one or two possessions. And we’ll see who executes then.”

With James and Davis healthy, though, the Lakers will always believe they have a chance. And they weren’t going to let it slip away by losing to the Pelicans on Tuesday. 

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