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Jared Dudley: Some Teams Were 'Managing' Schedules to Avoid Lakers in NBA Playoffs

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVMay 17, 2021

AP Photo/David Zalubowski

Jared Dudley didn't call any teams out by name, but he believes some squads attempted to avoid his Los Angeles Lakers in the playoffs down the stretch of the season.

He told reporters some teams were "managing" their schedules and that if he were another team, he'd want to play the Lakers right away.

The implication was that the Lakers may be more vulnerable early in the playoffs as LeBron James works his way back from an ankle injury, although Dudley said, "We're getting healthy at the right time, and no one wants to see a healthy Lakers team."

His comments were notable following Sunday's win over the New Orleans Pelicans.

After all, they came on a night when the L.A. Clippers didn't play Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Rajon Rondo, Marcus Morris Sr. and Nicolas Batum and lost to the lowly Oklahoma City Thunder.

Elsewhere, the Denver Nuggets played Nikola Jokic for 17 minutes and Michael Porter Jr. for 15 minutes in their loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.

If the Lakers defeat the Golden State Warriors in the play-in game to clinch the No. 7 seed and then beat the second-seeded Phoenix Suns in the first round, they will likely play the No. 3 seed in the second round. That spot was up in the air between the Nuggets and Clippers, but it ultimately went to Denver given Sunday's results.

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While it is easy to look ahead to those potential matchups, the Lakers have to deal with the red-hot Stephen Curry and the Warriors in the play-in tournament first.

"It will be the hardest challenge any team has ever had in NBA history," Dudley told reporters when asked about trying to emerge from the play-in tournament and win a title as the No. 7 seed.

That may be hyperbole, but Los Angeles will likely have a far more difficult path to the championship than it did last season as the No. 1 seed.

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