Having clinched a Western Conference top seed in the NBA playoffs, the Los Angeles Lakers began experimenting for the post-season Wednesday and found they still have some work to do.
In their first game since taking the top spot, the Lakers were routed 105-86 by Oklahoma City, never leading for the first time all season.
Chris Paul scored a game-high 21 points and Italian forward Danilo Gallinari added 19 as the Thunder, 42-25, stayed one game behind Utah for fourth in the West.
Three-time NBA champion LeBron James led the Lakers with 19 points and 11 rebounds in 30 minutes on the court while Anthony Davis had nine points, eight rebounds and five assists.
“Some things we need to continue to work on,” James said. “We’ve been out 4 1/2 months.
“When you put in the hours, put in the reps, you can’t worry to much. You’ve got to go get it.”
Everyone on the Lakers’ roster played as the purple and gold looked to the playoffs by testing combinations and talent to see who might work well together when needed later in the Orlando bubble, where games resumed last week after a four-month Covid-19 hiatus.
“We have some guys who are new to the system,” James said. “We’re just trying to fit everybody in, do it on the fly, but at the same time get our legs back underneath us.”
The Orlando Magic and Brooklyn Nets each could have clinched an Eastern Conference playoff berth with a victory, but both were beaten by title contenders.
Fred VanVleet scored a game-high 21 points and matched Kyle Lowry’s game-high 10 assists to spark the defending NBA champion Toronto Raptors over Orlando 109-99.
The Magic fell to 32-37, a half-game behind the seventh-place Brooklyn Nets, who fell to Boston 149-115.
Jaylen Brown led the Celtics with 21 points and Jason Tatum added 19 as Boston had seven double-figure scorers and unleashed the team’s highest one-game point total of the season despite playing without rested star guard Kemba Walker.
Cameroonian star Joel Embiid had game highs of 30 points and 11 rebounds to lead Philadelphia over Washington 107-98 but the 76ers lost Australian star guard Ben Simmons to a left knee injury in the third quarter.
Simmons had eight points on 2-of-10 shooting with six rebounds and four assists in 23 minutes before exiting as the Sixers improved to 41-27, one game behind fifth-place Indiana in the Eastern Conference.
The Athletic reported Simmons had an MRI on the knee that was negative and his status would be decided day to day.
The Wizards, 24-44 and 0-4 in the bubble, will be eliminated from playoff contention with one more loss or if Orlando and Brooklyn both win.
That could happen Friday when New Orleans plays Washington, Brooklyn faces Sacramento and Orlando meets Philadelphia.
Aussie Ingles sizzles
Australian guard Joe Ingles scored 25 points, hitting 6-of-11 from 3-point range, while Mike Conley added 23 and French center Rudy Gobert contributed 21 points and 16 rebounds to power the Utah Jazz over Memphis 124-115.
Dillion Brooks scored 23 to lead the Grizzlies, who had 20 points from rookie star Ja Morant plus 21 points and 14 rebounds from Lithuanian big man Jonas Valanciunas.
“We battled tonight,” Morant said. “All in all I thought we played good.”
At 32-37, Memphis fell to only one game ahead of Portland for eighth place in the Western Conference.
Denver’s Michael Porter scored 30 points and grabbed 15 rebounds while Serbian 7-footer Nikola Jokic added 25 points and 11 assists to lead the Nuggets over San Antonio 132-126.
Reserve forward Rudy Gay scored 24 points to pace the Spurs, who missed a chance to pull within a game of Memphis as well.