It got a bit hairy at times in the fourth quarter, but the Los Angeles Lakers managed to defeat the New Orleans Pelicans in their Play-In Tournament matchup by a score of 110-106 to advance to the NBA Playoffs as the seven seed in the Western Conference. Darvin Ham and his team are clearly thrilled, even though they now have a tough first-round matchup with the Denver Nuggets on their hands.

The Lakers were bounced by the Nuggets in five games in the Western Conference Finals last year, and with Denver looking as strong as ever, some folks suggested that the Lakers should purposely lose to the Pelicans in order to avoid the Nuggets. When asked about that train of thought, though, Ham made it clear that it was something that never crossed his mind.

“There was a report of what? Insane asylum sources say. Nah. It was someone that just got out of the insane asylum.” – Darvin Ham, CBS Sports

Darvin Ham not the only one befuddled by tanking suggestion

Los Angeles Lakers head coach Darvin Ham watches during the first half against the Memphis Grizzlies at FedExForum.
Mandatory Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

This isn't exactly the first time it's been suggested that a team should throw a game in order to potentially draw an easier playoff matchup, and it's fair to wonder whether a first-round matchup against the number one seed in the Oklahoma City Thunder would be easier than going up against the Nuggets. The Lakers weren't taking any chances, though, and put the Pelicans away when they had the opportunity to do so on Tuesday night.

Ham clearly wasn't a big fan of the idea, and asking him such a question after a big win seemed like a strange decision. Many folks were confused by the question, and even Stephen A. Smith caught wind of it, blasting the question and the idea that Los Angeles should have passed up an opportunity to guarantee themselves a spot in the playoffs.

For a point in time, it seemed like the Lakers were actually trying to throw the game, as they coughed up an 18-point lead that they had midway through the third quarter by allowing the Pelicans to tie the game at 99 apiece with 90 seconds left in the fourth quarter. LA managed to outscore New Orleans 11-7 the rest of the way out, though, to ensure that they would be moving on to the playoffs.

Ham made it clear to the media that the Lakers had no intention of avoiding the Nuggets, and he sent the same message to his team immediately after the game. Everyone knows how much is on the line for both sides in this rematch from last year, and Ham made it clear that Los Angeles isn't afraid of Denver, and that they want all the smoke that will come in this big matchup.

The Lakers message has been heard loud and clear, both with their words and their actions on the court. They are embracing the chance to get revenge against the Nuggets, even though their playoff hopes could come crashing down early if things don't go their way. But if LA manages to send Denver packing early on, they would have quite a bit of momentum moving forward, and it could lead them on a deep run to the Finals.