Heading into the last weekend of the NBA regular season, a Lakers-Clippers first round playoff matchup was a very distinct possibility. But after a wild slate of games Friday night, the Battle of L.A. will have to wait until at least the second round.
The Clippers, who entered Friday as the No. 3 seed, leading the Denver Nuggets by a game in the standings, made it official by losing to the lowly Houston Rockets. Paired with a Nuggets’ win over the Detroit Pistons, the Clippers guaranteed they won’t be playing the defending champs in the first round.
It was the way in which the Clippers lost, though, that left fans wondering whether they were intentionally trying to avoid a matchup against the Lakers. In what could be remembered as a historic chess move, the Clippers decided to rest Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Patrick Beverly, and Reggie Jackson, virtually ensuring a loss and avoiding that juicy first round matchup.
As a result, the only opponents the Clippers can face in Round 1 are now either the Dallas Mavericks or the Portland Trail Blazers. For the Lakers, things become far more complicated. If the Nuggets beat the Blazers on Sunday, they could get the Lakers in the first round. If the Nuggets lose to the Blazers, however, they could drop to the No. 4 seed and let the Clippers face the Blazers in the first round.
Check out the best Twitter reactions to the Clippers’ apparent tank job, below.