The NBA Playoffs screech to the courts this week and it looks set to be another tense post-season.
Before the Playoffs get underway, we’ve got an equally electric Play In tournament which will decide the 7th and 8th seeds in both conferences.
The Los Angeles Lakers, Chicago Bulls and Toronto Raptors are among the last eight who’ll be fighting their way to the First Round.
Before we take a look at some of the games coming up in the Play In, let’s take a brief look what to expect in the next few days.
When is the Play In Tournament?
The AT&T Play In tournament takes place between the Regular season and the main Playoffs. That’s between Tuesday 11th and Friday 14th April.
What is it?
Its aim is to whittle down to the final two teams from each conference that will take the 7th and 8th seed berths in the Playoffs.
The tournament is made up six games, that’s three games split between the two conferences and their four teams each.
The four teams are ranked from 7th to 10th in their conference, determined by their finishing position (by win percentage) during the Regular Season.
Who is competing?
GAME 1: Miami Heat (7th – Win Percentage: 0.537%) vs Atlanta Hawks (8th – Win Percentage: 0.500%)
GAME 3: Toronto Raptors (9th – Win Percentage: 0.500%) vs Chicago Bulls (10th – Win Percentage: 0.488%)
What happens next?
The WINNER of the Heat – Hawks game then automatically takes the 7th seed spot to face the Boston Celtics (2nd) in the First Round.
The WINNER of the Raptors – Bulls game will face the LOSER of the Heat – Hawks game for the 8th Seed. They’ll then face the Milwaukee Bucks (1st) in the First Round.
Same for the Western
GAME 2: Los Angeles Lakers (7th – Win Percentage: 0.524%) vs Minnesota Timberwolves (8th – Win Percentage: 0.512%)
GAME 4: New Orleans Pelicans (9th – Win Percentage: 0.512%) vs Oklahoma City Thunder (10th – Win Percentage: 0.488%)
What happens next?
The WINNER of the Lakers – Timberwolves game then automatically takes the 7th seed spot to face the Memphis Grizzlies (2nd) in the First Round.
The WINNER of the Pelicans – Thunder game will face the LOSER of the Lakers – Timberwolves game for the 8th Seed. They’ll then face the Denver Nuggets (1st) in the First Round.
How’s Tuesday looking?
Atlanta Hawks @ Miami Heat
This will certainly be an interesting one for Heat.
While they were the lowest-scoring team during the regular season and unable to rack up 110 points per game, Heat has players that don’t have issues picking 20+ points per game. We’re talking about Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro.
There’s a lot of reliance on Butler’s mid-range skill and Adebayo’s presence on the paint to make for average at best 3-point shooters.
What to watch will be (Hawks) Dejounte Murray on (Heat) Jimmy Butler. The duel will be interesting to see especially seeing as Murray brings incredible skill in deflecting and stealing as well as frustrating offensive players.
Butler will rise to the challenge though. He’s had a stellar season, delivering a result when the Heat needed it most. He’s finishing the season on 151 clutch points and 50.5% shots from clutch situations.
Minnesota Timberwolves @ Los Angeles Lakers
This game will consider the Wolves in Lakers clothing. Former Wolves players D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt are each making a mark in the Lakers’ comeback.
These three form part of the trade deadline to the Lakers and they’re playing a huge part minimizing weaknesses in the club. Russell is a tough and hardy point guard, Beasley is the deep shooter and Vanderbilt brings the power.
The eyes will be on (Lakers) Anthony Davis and (Wolves) Karl-Anthony Towns. Towns has a lot to prove after just a few weeks of games following his 51-game absence. He’ll be going toe-to-toe with one of the best defenders in the League.
Towns will also need to pull his weight to keep up with the offensive capability of Anthony Edwards.
How about Wednesday?
Chicago Bulls @ Toronto Raptors
The main thing scaring the Bulls is the Raptors’ defence… it’s stung them twice already. The Bulls are still reeling from the 113 – 104 defeat which saw the Raptor’s defence claim 11 steals and 10 blocks.
Then in February they forced 20 turnovers which turned into 21 points and 23 more field goals than the Bulls could muster.
DeRozan will be the one to watch in this game. He’s managed to strike at the Raptors even if he struggled to get the points. In three Regular season games he managed nine shots and 17 turnovers in Game 1, while just managing nine points in Game 2. He managed 13 points from 11 attempts in Game 3.
Oklahoma City Thunder @ New Orleans Pelicans
Pelicans better beware the might of the five-year veteran Gilgeous-Alexander and his impressive stats.
The OKC players currently sits fourth in the NBA for scoring (31.4 ppg) and in four games against the Pelicans this season, managed to average 33.5 ppg, 8.0 rpg and 4.3 apg and 2.3 spg.
Thunder look set to clinch playoff contention again and Pelicans won’t want that.
Brandon Ingram will be the one on the Pelicans side to watch. He missed 35 of Pelican’s 55 games but thankfully when he did get to face Thunder in the third matchup in February, it was certainly one to write home about.
He racked up 34 points with 58.3% from the field and 60% from deep.
Likewise, Lu Dort will be on guard duty and he won’t make it easy for the likes of Ingram.
See you in Part TWO
That concludes Part One of our look at the NBA tournaments and the games coming up in the Play In Tournament. Stay tuned for Part Two where we’ll be discussing the run up to the Playoffs.