Clippers make 'chess move': Can the Lakers play the Clippers in the first round of the playoffs?

Joshua Rogers May 15, 2021
Clippers make 'chess move': Can the Lakers play the Clippers in the first round of the playoffs?
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Can the Lakers face the Clippers in the first round of the playoffs? Fans praise the Clippers’ ‘chess move’ after Friday’s loss against Houston. The defeat now has serious ramifications for the rest of the league. Here’s what the Clippers’ chess move was.

The final few games of the NBA season are taking place, the results of which could have huge implications for the rest of the season.

It’s certainly complicated, and with the Clippers 122-115 loss to the Houston Rockets on Friday, another interesting spanner has been thrown into the works.

After the game, fans were calling the Clippers’ defeat a ‘chess move’. What was the chess move and does it mean the Lakers and Clippers can meet in the first round of the playoffs?

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Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

How does the NBA play-in tournament work?

Teams that finish 7th-10th in the standings for their respective conferences will enter the play-in tournament which starts on 18 May.

The 7th seed in the standings by winning percentage will host the No. 8 team, with the winner earning the No. 7 seed in the playoffs.

The No. 9 team will host the No. 10 team, with the winner moving on to a third game.

The loser of the No. 7 vs. No. 8 matchup will host the winner of the No. 9 vs. No. 10 matchup, with the victor grabbing the 8th seed.

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Can the Lakers face the Clippers in the first round of the NBA playoffs?

With Friday night’s loss against Houston, the Clippers have carefully, and strategically, positioned themselves so that they cannot meet the Lakers early on in the playoffs.

It was just the second Rockets win in their last 14 games, and the Clippers started out with a lineup of: Luke Kennard, Jay Scrubb, Rajon Rondo, Marcus Morris Sr., Ivica Zubac.

Both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George were rested.

Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Before the game, the Clippers could have faced the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs (something they obviously wanted to avoid) unless they lost to the Rockets, the Mavericks beat the Raptors, and the Nuggets beat the Pistons.

All three of those things happened, so now the Clippers and Lakers cannot face each other in the first round of the playoffs. The earliest they can meet is the Western Conference Finals.

The only opponents the Clippers can face in the first round of the playoffs are now either the Dallas Mavericks or the Portland Trail Blazers.

The Clippers may have made the perfect chess move.

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Some fans praise the Clippers for their brilliant ‘chess move’

The Clippers seemingly tanking the game against Houston in order to avoid the Lakers has been praised by some as a genius strategy.

People on Twitter are saying the Clippers played a brilliant ‘chess move’.

Others criticise the Clippers for ‘running’ from the Lakers

Others have been more critical saying the Clippers are ducking LeBron and the Lakers.

They suggest the Clippers are running scared and ‘wanted no part’ of the Lakers.

Who are the Lakers playing in the first round of the playoffs?

So where does this leave the Lakers?

Firstly, the Lakers have to win their two remaining games against the Pacers and Pelicans, but their future could all depend on the Denver Nuggets.

There could now be a scenario where the Nuggets deliberately decide to lose against the Trail Blazers. That’s because if they beat the Blazers, they could end getting the Lakers in the first round as they will be the 3rd seed.

If the Nuggets lose to the Blazers, they could drop to the 4th seed and let the Clippers face the Blazers in the first round.

Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

So if the Lakers lose either of their next two games, the Blazers will clinch the 6th seed. If the Blazers win against the Nuggets on Monday, they have the 6th seed, leaving the Lakers in 7th and in the play-off tournament.

The Lakers essentially have to win both their games and hope the Blazers lose in order to avoid the play-in tournament.

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Joshua is a senior sports writer with over four years' experience in online writing. He graduated with a BA in Ancient History from The University of Manchester before receiving an MA in Sports Journalism from The University of Central Lancashire. He became a trending writer for a leading social publisher and later spent time covering the 2018 World Cup for The Mirror Online. He then moved to a social marketing agency where he acted as website editor. His specialties on The Focus include F1, tennis, NBA, NFL and combat sports.