• The Los Angeles Lakers will be in the NBA play-in against the Golden State Warriors
  • The Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Clippers rested their stars on the last day of the regular season
  • Jared Dudley understands what the Nuggets and Clippers did but pointed out what they missed

The Los Angeles Lakers will enter uncharted waters on Tuesday, participating in the NBA's play-in tournament after a seventh-placed finish in the Western Conference regular season.

It will be a first-time experience for the defending champions, which shall have two chances to win to prevail and formally make the playoffs.

Elsewhere, teams like the Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Clippers secured the third and fourth seeds, respectively, but they did so in a strange fashion that has caught the attention of Lakers forward Jared Dudley.

The Nuggets rested their starters and fell to the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday, allowing Damian Lillard and company to take the sixth seed past the Lakers.

The Clippers, meanwhile, did not play Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in its back-to-back losses over the lowly Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Lakers' intra-city rivals shall meet the fifth-seeded Dallas Mavericks in the first round.

The veteran forward sounded off on the teams' surprising strategies in the tail-end of the regular season, per Silver Screen and Roll's Christian Rivas

“I do think it was funny that you see a lot of teams, as you would say, managing these last couple of games to try and avoid us and stuff like that,” Dudley said, adding that the Lakers are "up" for whoever they end up facing in the first round.

The 6-foot-6 Dudley added that he felt other contenders in the West are worried about playing the defending champs early on.

“We’re the defending champs; they’ve got to worry about us. We’re getting healthy at the right time, and no one wants to see a healthy Lakers team," he stated.

Dudley did clarify he does not think of their losses as a way of "avoiding" the Lakers necessarily but as a "good strategy" done by teams wanting a deep postseason run.

“It’s smart by Denver. You don’t want to play the champs. Let’s just be honest. It’s not avoiding: you want to wait and play the best teams later on, give yourself the best possible chance," he explained.

Should the Lakers beat the Golden State Warriors in their seven-vs-eight play-in match-up, they will take the seventh seed and open a first-round series against Chris Paul and the Phoenix Suns.

If the Lakers lose, they have to beat the winner of the Memphis Grizzlies-San Antonio Spurs duel to take the last ticket to the playoffs and meet the Utah Jazz.

The earliest the Nuggets and Clippers could potentially play the Lakers would be in the conference semi-finals.

While the strategies by the Nuggets and Clippers were deemed well-thought of, Dudley had an interesting insight that points out a factor the teams might have overlooked.

“If I was one of those teams, I’d actually want to play us early. I’d want to play when LeBron James is coming off of an ankle injury and they’re trying to find their chemistry," Dudley shared. 

"Do you think we’re going to be better later or better now? The more chemistry, the more games, the stronger we get. We’re not going to get worse later on, so if I was a team, I’d want to play us right away, but that’s the way I think.”

James, Anthony Davis and Dennis Schroder have not yet played together for a month, and the Lakers are still working to be the best cohesive unit.

Eventually, only time will tell whether Denver and the Clippers' tactics pay off in the end.

Marc Gasol #14,Kyle Kuzma #0,Anthony Davis #3 and LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers Marc Gasol #14,Kyle Kuzma #0,Anthony Davis #3 and LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers Photo: Getty Images | Elsa