LOS ANGELES • Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel insisted he is not worried about the prospect of a National Basketball Association (NBA) play-in tournament after his team fell 106-101 to the Portland Trail Blazers, their play-off rivals in the West.
Blazers guard Damian Lillard put on a show for the fans, scoring a game-high 38 points as supporters were back at the Moda Centre for the first time this season.
C.J. McCollum added 21 points for Portland, who were tied with the Lakers on a 37-29 record before the game.
The Blazers moved into sixth place and hold the tiebreaker edge in the standings after winning two of three games over the Lakers this season.
The top six in the Western conference will avoid the new play-in round, while the seventh and eighth seeds will have to battle for their places in the post-season.
The May 18-21 play-in tournament will see the seventh seed play at most two games, both on their home court. However, on the back of the shortest NBA off-season, additional games could take a toll on the weary Lakers.
"Wherever we land, we're confident," Vogel said. "Obviously we want to finish in the top six. We still have five games to make up some ground if that's possible."
The reigning champions have won two of their last 10 games. In contrast, the Blazers have found their form at the right time, winning six of their last seven.
But the Lakers will draw comfort from the return of All-Star Anthony Davis from injury. He ended with 36 points and 12 rebounds.
"This is his best game since his return for sure," Vogel said. "He's getting a little bit stronger each game. It's a very encouraging sign."
The Lakers played without the injured LeBron James (ankle) and Dennis Schroder, who was out because of health and safety protocols.