The NBA playoffs have never looked as interesting and exciting before. This year as seen lots of movement from the Association’s best teams. For example, the Memphis Grizzles came out of nowhere as the second seed in the Western Conference and the Eastern Conference’s Boston Celtics had a rocky start to their season. Although these are good examples of amazing teams not everyone has been as lucky and must go through the play in tournament.
The Play-In tournament consists of each side’s 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th seeded teams at the end of the year. The 7th and 8th seeds play each other and whoever wins plays the 2nd seed. The 9th and 10th seeds play each other and whoever wins plays the loser of the 7th and 8th seed game and whoever losses is out of the playoffs. Then the loser of the 7th and 8th seed game plays the winner of the 9th and 10th game to see you have to play the 1st seed. This year for the Western Conference the Minnesota Timberwolves, Los Angeles Clippers, San Antonio Spurs, and the New Orleans Pelicans made the play in. For the Eastern Conference the Brooklyn Nets, Cleveland Cavaliers, Atlanta Hawks, and the Charlotte Hornets made it. So, the Timberwolves play the Clippers as 7th and 8th seed, and the Pelicans and Spurs play as the 9th and 10th seed. And the Nets and Cavaliers play as the 7th and 8th and the Hawks and Hornets play as the 9th and 10th.
For the East, the Nets are heavy favorites to beat the Cavs because of the Nets’ recent comeback in the late parts of the season. Point guard Kyrie Irving was allowed to play home games for the first time in the last few weeks due to New York law involving unvaccinated employees. Future Hall of Famer Kevin Durant has also been putting up great numbers for the Nets down the stretch. The Cavs are a young team with a bunch of young stars trying to make the playoffs for the first time in their careers, including point guard Darius Garland and rookie Evan Mobley. For the Hawks playing the Hornets, the Hawks are the favorites to pull off the win as their star point guard Trae Young has had a terrific season. Similar to the Cavs, the Hornets are a young team with players who do not have experience in big games. For the West, I believe the Timberwolves will come out with a close win against the Clippers because of their momentum and grit coming into the playoffs. But with the Pelicans playing the Spurs I think this game will also be a close game. The Pelicans and Spurs are arguably the worst two teams in the play-in but star guards CJ McCollum of New Orleans and Dejounte Murray of San Antonio will make in the game.
Following the play-in, will come the NBA playoffs. For the Western Conference, the Phoenix Suns will face whoever the last team is to escape the Western Conference Play-In and will most likely beat them in a series that will not be very competitive. Phoenix has been an unstoppable force this season and they have a lot better talent than anyone of the play-in teams right now. With the Dallas Mavericks and Utah Jazz series, this could be a long series because both teams are solid and seem to be deep with role players to help each of their star players, Luka Doncic of Dallas and Donovan Mitchell of Utah. I believe the Mavs will come out of the series in 7 games with Doncic’s star power and play-making ability. The Golden State Warriors play the Denver Nuggets in another Western Conference playoff series which is expected to lean towards Golden State. Denver might take a game or two at home due to MVP candidate center Nikola Jokic being able to take over some games. The Memphis Grizzlies will face the first team to escape the Western Conference. Memphis will be heavily favored as they are led by star point guard Ja Morant and had the second best record in the entire NBA behind only Phoenix.
In the Eastern Conference, I believe the top seeded Miami Heat could hold their own against any of the Eastern Conference play-in of the other teams except the Brooklyn Nets. Miami is led by small forward Jimmy Butler, point guard Kyle Lowry, and center Bam Adebayo. For the Philadelphia 76ers-Toronto Raptors series, this could go six games due to the depth of Toronto taking on the stars, MVP candidate Joel Embiid and James Harden, of Philadelphia. Philadelphia will be favored but this could be a close series. The Milwaukee Bucks play the Chicago Bulls in what could be a lopsided series. Milwaukee should win this series easily with MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo and his surrounding cast being too overwhelming for DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine, and the Bulls. Similar to Miami, the Boston Celtics will be heavily favored against any of the play-in teams except for Brooklyn.
Overall, these year’s field of playoff and play-in teams is arguably the deepest the association has ever seen, which should lead to a very exciting postseason for the NBA.
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