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Lakers legend Magic Johnson rips ‘ridiculous’ idea team should lose play-in game to avoid facing Nuggets

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Five-time NBA champion Magic Johnson is weighing in on the Los Angeles Lakers postseason prospects. 

The Lakers finished the regular season ranked eight in the Western Conference standings, which earned the team a spot in the NBA Play-In tournament. LeBron James and the Lakers traveled to New Orleans this week for a play-In matchup with the seventh-seeded Pelicans.

A Lakers win would earn the team a spot in the first round, where Los Angeles would take on the reigning champion Denver Nuggets. But, some of the Lakers faithful expressed concern about the idea of going up against the team that eliminated Los Angeles in the Western Conference Finals last year.

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Magic Johnson in Georgia

Magic Johnson speaks during the TSP Live 2022 conference at The Hotel at Avalon on June 24, 2022 in Alpharetta, Georgia. (Derek White/Getty Images)

But, a Los Angeles loss would open the door for a Lakers-Thunder first round matchup. But, the Lakers would have to defeat the winner of the other Western Conference play-in game between the Sacramento Kings and Golden State Warriors.

 The Thunder finished the regular season with the second best win total in the NBA.

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However, Johnson quickly dismissed the “ridiculous” assertion that the Lakers gameplan entering Tuesday’s game against New Orleans should involve intentionally losing the play-in game.

View of Lakers court

Los Angeles Lakers upper court view of the logo during game 4 of the NBA Western Conference Semifinals between the Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Lakers on May 08, 2023, at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles, CA. (Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

“I want the Lakers to beat the Pelicans tonight to secure the #7 seed and face the Nuggets,” Johnson wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “Even though the Lakers lost their four matchups against the Nuggets [in last year’s playoffs], games 2, 3, and 4 were all close!”

“It’s ridiculous that I’ve been hearing people think they should intentionally lose to face the winner of the Kings-Warriors and eventually, the Thunder,” Johnson added. “As a true competitor, you should always want to win. To be the best, you have to beat the best!”

Earvin "Magic" Johnson smiles

Former NBA basketball player Earvin Magic Johnson poses at the premiere of the movie “The Legend of Tarzan” in Hollywood, California, June 27, 2016.  (REUTERS/Danny Moloshok)

Two-time NBA MVP Nikola Jokic helped propel the Nuggets to a four-game sweep of the Lakers in last year’s Western Conference Finals. The Lakers also had a tough time against Denver in the 2023-24 regular season, dropping all three games against the Nuggets.

Conversely, the Lakers won three out of four games against the Thunder this season. 

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ESPN’s Mike Greenberg suggested that the Lakers should rest some of their star players against the Pelicans.

“They should not play LeBron, they should not play AD (Anthony Davis), they don’t want to be the seventh seed. You want to be the eight. I’m taking my chances in a one-and-done at home against either Sacramento or Golden State. And go win against the very young OKC Thunder in round one instead of going into the buzsaw that is Denver,” Greenberg said during a recent edition of “Get Up.”

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