NBA Play-In Tournament Preview

Nba Basketball

By WVUA 23 Digital Reporter Hunter De Siver

With the NBA regular season wrapped up, four teams in each conference must fight for the No. 7 and No. 8 seeds in the playoffs.

Some of these squads have an extreme amount of talent that could help them make a playoff run. They can’t even attempt these Cinderella stories until they beat each other in the third annual NBA Play-In Tournament.

To earn the future No. 7 seed in the playoffs, the winner of the current No. 7 and No. 8 seeds will face off in a best-of-one game. The winner will face the No. 2 seed in the playoffs.

To earn the future No. 8 seed in the playoffs, the loser of the current No. 7 vs. No. 8 seed game will face off against the winner of the current No. 9 vs. No. 10 seed game.

Eastern Conference

No. 7 Brooklyn Nets (44-38) vs. No. 8 Cleveland Cavaliers (44-38) (Tuesday at 6 p.m. on TNT)

The Nets have been one of the most talked about teams this season, and usually not for good reasons. The combination of James Harden leaving Brooklyn earlier in the season, Kyrie Irving not being allowed to play home games because he is unvaccinated (mandate lifted a couple of weeks ago), and Kevin Durant’s injuries throughout the season have led them to an underwhelming No. 7 seed. With them both back on the court, KD, Kyrie and the Nets are the most likely team to make a “Cinderella” run.

Cavs guard Darius Garland, the team’s best player, and mid-season acquisition big man Jarrett Allen both earned their first All-Star appearances this season. The selection of Rookie of the Year candidate Evan Mobley in the 2021 NBA Draft has been one of the most important factors to their success. The world is rooting for the Cavs youth against Brooklyn’s two future hall-of-famers.

No. 9 Atlanta Hawks (43-39) vs. No. 10 Charlotte Hornets (43-39) (Wednesday at 6 p.m. on TNT)

Alabama legend Paul W. “Bear” Bryant’s “offense sells tickets, but defense wins championships” quote heavily applies to this game. The Hawks and Hornets are both in the top 10 in offensive rating, but are in the bottom 10 in defensive rating.

The Hawks run their offense through Trae Young. The All-Star point guard led the entire NBA in points and assists this season. Young’s ability to lob it to John Collins and Clint Capela is unlike almost any player in the NBA.

The Hornets are another team that excels at alley-oops. All-Star point guard LaMelo Ball has used his 6’7″ height and passing ability to form a similar playstyle to a sharpshooting version of Magic Johnson (not even close to being as good as him). His lobs to Hornets leading scorer Miles Bridges explains the hype around this squad.

Western Conference

No. 7 Minnesota Timberwolves (46-36) vs. No. 8 Los Angeles Clippers (42-40) (Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. on TNT)

The T-Wolves are coming off one of their best seasons in franchise history with a record of 46-36. Their elite duo of high-flying 20-year-old Anthony Edwards and all-around All-Star Karl-Anthony Towns have led them to this spot after finishing with half of these wins in the 2020-21 season. The playmaking of D’Angelo Russell and the sharpshooting of Malik Beasley have heavily contributed to Minnesota’s success as well.

The Clippers caught the injury bug this season, but NBA champion head coach Tyronn Lue has mentored the team to a modest 42-40 record. All-time great Kawhi Leonard, their best player tore his ACL in last year’s playoffs and hasn’t played a game yet this season. Paul George, another multi-All-Star, has battled injuries throughout the season, but in his 31 games played he has averaged over 24 points.

No. 9 New Orleans Pelicans (36-46) vs. No. 10 San Antonio Spurs (34-48) (Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN)

The Pelicans have survived the entire season without Zion Williamson, one of the most hyped-up players since LeBron James. After acquiring mid-range and three-point scorer CJ McCollum in a trade, he paired very well with Brandon Ingram’s similar playstyle. Former Alabama rookie Herbert Jones has been the lockdown defender in New Orleans.

All-time winningest head coach Gregg Popovich has created a young lineup that could become a threat in the future. Dejounte Murray, his best player, earned his first All-Star appearance this season and is carrying a team of potential future All-Stars like Keldon Johnson. Former Alabama rookie. Joshua Primo will likely have a decent amount of minutes in this win-or-go-home matchup.

Categories: Alabama, College Sports, Sports