LOS ANGELES (AFP) ‒ The Utah Jazz claimed top spot in the playoffs, Stephen Curry captured the scoring title, and the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers settled for a spot in the play-in round as Sunday’s final day of the regular season saw all 30 NBA teams in action.
LeBron James scored 25 points as Los Angeles easily beat the short-handed New Orleans Pelicans, 110-98, but the win wasn’t enough to get the Lakers directly into the playoffs.
The Portland Trail Blazers beat the Denver Nuggets to earn the sixth seed ahead of the Lakers, who finished seventh for a place in the play-in tournament that begins Tuesday and ends Friday.
Los Angeles next plays Wednesday night against Curry’s Golden State Warriors, who have won six in a row.
“We just go to play to the best of our ability,” said James. “We got to play Laker basketball. We are playing the MVP of our league in Steph. We got to be ready for the opportunity and the pressure.”
Curry earned his second NBA scoring title as the Golden State Warriors beat the Memphis Grizzlies 113-101. Curry finished the regular season with a 32.0-point scoring average, claiming the league title over Washington Wizards’ Bradley Beal.
Elsewhere, the Jazz claimed sole possession of the No. 1 spot in the NBA playoffs for the first time in franchise history by beating the Sacramento Kings 121-99 behind a 33-point performance from Jordan Clarkson.
Rudy Gobert had a double-double of 13 points and 16 rebounds as the Jazz finished with a 52-20 record to beat out the second place Phoenix Suns for league bragging rights.
Also, the Trail Blazers earned the upper hand in the race for the sixth and final direct playoff spot with a 132-116 win over the Nuggets, who they will meet in the first round of the playoffs.
“I had a lot of good looks all night,” Curry said. “We were in sync. The guys set great screens for me.”
The 33-year old Curry won his first scoring title in 2016. He and Michael Jordan are the only NBA players to win a scoring title after turning 33.
Curry also joins Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain as the only players with multiple scoring titles, most valuable players awards and NBA championships.
“He’s like the Picasso of our time,” said teammate Juan Toscano-Anderson. “You can’t have a knock on him. He’s the best doing it right now.”
Curry scored 17 of his game-high 46 points in the third quarter as the Warriors seized the Western Conference number eight spot in this week’s play-in tournament.