Lakers ‘unafraid’ as daunting NBA play-in scenario looms

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The Los Angeles Lakers are still hoping to avoid the NBA’s play-in scenarios for the playoffs, but the defending champions otherwise have no preference when it comes to their postseason opponents.

“My opinion is, win as many games as you can and let the seeds fall where they may and be unafraid of any matchup,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said Saturday. “I believe in the basketball gods.”

The increasingly healthy Lakers have won four straight games entering their season finale Sunday against the Pelicans. LeBron James returned to the lineup Saturday against Indiana for the first time since May 2, and point guard Dennis Schroder also played after missing seven games due to health and safety protocols.

A win over New Orleans combined with a Portland loss to Denver would give the Lakers (41-30) the sixth seed in the Western Conference, avoiding a play-in game against either the Warriors or the Grizzlies.

“Let the chips fall where they may, as simple as that,” James said. “We’re ready to go.”

James scored 24 points in 28 minutes against the Pacers, with eight assists and seven rebounds after missing six games while the ankle injury originally suffered in March.

“He’s LeBron James, so he’s definitely going to change our team dramatically,” Vogel said. “We’ve been without him for a long stretch, and the other guys have performed admirably. But having him back in there, it’s just a difference-maker — his IQ, his ability to make plays in every way you can make a play — and helped us close the game out.”

Vogel wouldn’t divulge his lineup plans for Sunday or how much he planned to play his returning veterans on the second game of a back-to-back. That also includes Anthony Davis, who played against Indiana after missing the previous game due to groin tightness.

“We’ll meet with the medical team and see where everybody’s at, in terms of the guys coming back from injury,” Vogel said. “We’ll make a decision on who’s in and who’s not in [on Sunday].”

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