NBA Playoffs: Tuesday and Wednesday Features "Play-In" Games

nba Apr 11, 2022

The Nets remain ridiculously overrated (they were favoured to win the NBA championship!), but they have enough to get into the "real" playoffs.

The 2021-22 NBA regular season is now completed, and it's time for the playoffs to begin.

This week, the play-in tournament will take place.  Eight teams will battle for the final four spots in the first round, which gets underway this coming Saturday.

What's the "play-in?" In both the Eastern and Western Conferences, the teams that finished seventh and eighth in the standings will face off, with the winners getting the No. 7 seeds. The losers must play the winners of the games between the ninth- and 10th-place teams. And the winners of those final contests will get the No. 8 berths.

Here's the odds at SPREADS.CA for those matchups:

The Phoenix Suns ran away with the best record in the NBA this season, as they went 64-18. The Memphis Grizzlies went 56-26, the second-best mark in the league, to secure the No. 2 seed in the West.

In the East, the Miami Heat will be the No. 1 seed after going 53-29. They edged the Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers, all of whom went 51-31 and are the Nos. 2, 3 and 4 seeds, respectively.

PLAY-IN SEEDINGS:

In the old postseason format, the top eight ranked teams from each conference made it directly to the first round.  However, the new format, featuring the play-in tournament, makes things more difficult for the Nos. 7 and 8 teams in both the East and West, while also giving a chance to the Nos. 9 and 10 teams.

This year, the four Eastern Conference teams in the play-in tourney—the Brooklyn Nets, Cleveland Cavaliers, Atlanta Hawks and Charlotte Hornets—were all separated by only one game in the standings. The Nets and Cavs each went 44-38, while the Hawks and Hornets were 43-39.

Things weren't as tight in the West. The Timberwolves (46-36) and Clippers (42-40) were well ahead of the Pelicans (36-46) and Spurs (34-48). Minnesota had the same record as Chicago, which avoided the play-in tournament by finishing in sixth in the East.

While it's possible the teams that finished ninth and 10th in the standings could advance to the first round, don't count on it.

PLAY-IN EARLY PREDICTIONS:

Let's start with the Western Conference, considering it should be easy to predict with the six-game gap between the Clippers and Pelicans in the standings. Los Angeles got healthy down the stretch, with both Paul George and Norman Powell in its rotation, and that could help it peak at the right time.

Because of that, the Clippers are capable of beating the Timberwolves, and that's what they'll do. But don't worry about Minnesota missing out on reaching the opening round. It will beat either New Orleans or San Antonio, whichever team makes it to the final game of the play-in tourney.

As for the Eastern Conference, don't let the similar records fool you. The Nets and Cavaliers are the better teams over the Hawks and Hornets, and that's going to be obvious with how the play-in tournament unfolds. Yes, the Nets were and remain ridiculously overrated (they were favoured to win the NBA championship!), but they have enough to get into the "real" playoffs.

Brooklyn is in this position largely because it didn't have much continuity during the regular season. Kevin Durant was limited to 54 games because of a knee injury, while Kyrie Irving appeared in only 28 games as he couldn't play in most of the Nets' home matchups because of New York City's COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

However, Durant is now healthy and Irving can play in home games. And even if Brooklyn doesn't add Ben Simmons (herniated disk in back) to the mix, it's still capable of making a deep playoff run because of its star duo.

Although the Nets will beat the Cavaliers, there's still a good chance Cleveland will advance to the first round. It will likely have to face Atlanta in the final game of the play-in tournament, but Darius Garland will keep his big season going by finding a way to power the Cavs to victory.

And with that, the Clippers, Timberwolves, Nets and Cavaliers will all avoid upsets and secure their spots in the first round, where each will have to take on either a No. 1 or No. 2 seed in a difficult series.

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