Lakers coach Darvin Ham rips ‘insane asylum’ idea that team should have thrown first play-in game

The Lakers beat the New Orleans Pelicans in their play-in tournament game on Tuesday night to set up an opening-round series with the Nuggets

Despite plenty of people in the sports world calling for it in recent days, Darvin Ham never considered throwing the Los Angeles Lakers’ first play-in tournament game.

The Los Angeles Lakers snuck past the New Orleans Pelicans 110-106 in the play-in tournament on Tuesday night. That officially sent the Lakers into the playoffs, where they’ll now take on the Denver Nuggets in the first round.

Several in the sports world, including ESPN’s Mike Greenberg, suggested that the Lakers should have thrown Tuesday’s game at the Smoothie King Center in the days leading up to the contest. The logic was that if the Lakers lost, and then beat the Sacramento Kings on Friday, they’d get the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference and avoid the defending champions in the opening round of the playoffs. If that played out, the Lakers would have instead played the top-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round instead of the Nuggets.

Obviously, there’s a lot of risk involved in that plan.

After the Lakers’ win Tuesday night, Ham was asked about that idea and, well, he was stunned.

“There was a report of what?” Ham asked, via ESPN. “Insane asylum sources say?”

Clearly, that’s not something he ever entertained.

Several in the sports world were pushing the idea that the Lakers should have intentionally lost on Tuesday night to avoid the Nuggets in the first round.
Several in the sports world were pushing the idea that the Lakers should have intentionally lost on Tuesday night to avoid the Nuggets in the first round. (Stephen Lew/USA Today)

The Lakers pulled ahead late Tuesday night to grab the four-point win over the Pelicans. LeBron James finished just shy of a triple-double with 23 points, nine rebounds and nine assists. Anthony Davis added 20 points and 15 rebounds.

Pelicans star Zion Williamson finished with 40 points and 11 rebounds, but he left the game late in the fourth quarter after sustaining a non-contact leg injury. Williamson was then ruled out of their play-in game against the Kings on Friday due to a hamstring injury. Further specifics of his injury aren’t yet known, but it doesn’t sound like Williamson will be available for the first round of the playoffs if they make it in.

The Lakers will now turn their attention to the Nuggets, who beat them in the Western Conference finals last season before winning their first NBA title. Game 1 of that series is set for Saturday night at Ball Arena.

"It's the defending champion," James said, via ESPN. "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 to come down to one or two possessions. And we'll see who executes then."