The play-ins have been a short, but wild rollercoaster and the playoffs are getting ready to set off.
The seeds are finally set, and the first-round matchups are 76ers(1) vs Wizards(8), Nets(2) vs Celtics(7), Bucks(3) vs Heat(6), and Knicks(4) vs Hawks(5).
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76ers vs Wizards:
The Russell Westbrook-Joel Embiid rivalry will continue during this year's playoffs and fans cannot wait. The Wizards finished the season with a 16-6 record, and after a lackluster start this season, they have made themselves a dangerous 8th seed. While the 76ers didn't finish the season hot, I'm sure with a team-full of veterans, rest was more of a priority. The 76ers beat the Wizards three times during the season, but two of those games were very close and came early in the season.
The Wizards can definitely make this series a challenging one for the 76ers. The Wizards have shooters all around with Bradley Beal, Davis Bertans. But the 76ers have a much deeper team with guys like Danny Green, Seth Curry, and Dwight Howard providing good veteran leadership. The Wizards are riding on the health of Bradley Beal, who has dealt with hamstring tightness in the past two weeks.
Nets vs Celtics:
The Nets finally seem to be healthy just in time for the playoffs, which is dangerous for Boston. Although the Nets big three only played eight games together, the Nets still finished with a 48-24. The Nets also have a great mix of reliable veterans like Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Jeff Green, and Joe Harris. These two teams meet three times during the regular season with Brooklyn taking all three games.
The Celtics have not lived up to expectations this year. After making a conference finals last year, it was expected to carry through the regular season, but they never found their stride. Jaylen Brown will continue to be sidelined with a broken wrist, so most of the load will be carried by Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker. I see this series being an easy one for the Nets.
Jaw-dropping handles, unlimited scoring ability and incredible playmaking… Kyrie Irving. #ThatsGame Kyrie and th… https://t.co/Oxb2hKv6OL— NBA (@NBA)1621697400.0
Bucks vs Heat:
A rematch of the heated second-round matchup last year, where the Heat upset Milwaukee, who had Giannis dealing with injuries. Interestingly enough, both of these come to the playoffs on the right side with an 8-2 record in their last 10 regular-season games. Giannis is back with more weapons on his sides like Jrue Holiday, PJ Tucker, and Jeff Teague, while also keeping their core from last year. Giannis had had another MVP-type season averaging 28 points and 11 rebounds.
The Miami Heat started the season off slow, probably because of the NBA finals hangover, but got hot after the all-star break. Miami also acquired many new weapons like Trevor Ariza and Dewayne Dedmon. The Jimmy Butler-Giannis Antetokounmpo matchup will be the most important aspect of this series.
Knicks vs Hawks
After what seems like a lifetime drought, the Knicks are finally back in the playoffs! We can all agree that when the Knicks are good, the league is in better spirits. Tom Thibodeau has turned this team around, and you can't forget about how Julius Randle has been playing this season. Possibly the most improved player, Julius Randle has proved all his doubters wrong and has taken the keys to this Knicks franchise. The Knicks have great veteran leadership with guys like Derrick Rose, and Taj Gibson who are familiar with Thibodeau. They also have great young talent with guys like RJ Barret, and Obi Toppin.
The Hawks on the other hand have turned it around since firing Lloyd Pierce and having Nate McMillan made this team do a complete 180. Trae Young and John Collins are one of the best duos in the league. With guys like Lou Williams, Danilo Gallinari, and Bogdan Bogdanovic who can get hot at any point of the game. This series can definitely go to 7 games, with last-second shots determining the outcome.
After an exciting season for the NBA and its fans, the playoffs are finally around the corner.
This season has been unique with Covid-19 restrictions, schedule changes, and a record setting number of injuries. Today (May 16) is the last day of the regular season, and the outcome of today's games have serious playoff implications.
After a trial run in last year's bubble, the play-in tournament will be sticking around. The play-in tournament is a new system in place for the NBA this year, it comes with controversy, but it definitely adds a lot more excitement for the end of the regular season. The teams involved in this tournament are the seventh through tenth seeds in each conference.
In the tournament's first two games, the seventh seed will be playing the eighth seed, and the ninth seed will be playing the tenth seed. The winner of the seven-eight game secures the seven seed. The eighth/final seed will be played for by the loser of the seven-eight game, and the winner of the ninth-tenth seed.
Starting in the Western Conference, sitting at the 8th seed is the Golden State Warriors, who are riding the red hot hand of Stephen Curry, who will finish off the season as the league scoring leader.
Most 30-point games by a player in their 12th season or later: 44 — Michael Jordan (1996-17) 37 — Steph Curry (202… https://t.co/SEsn1cKEyf— StatMuse (@StatMuse)1620707394.0
The 9th seed is the Memphis Grizzlies, led by Ja Morant but accompanied by great depth with young players possessing huge potential. The Grizzlies and Warriors face-off tomorrow for that eighth seed. Betting odds have the Warriors winning at 4.5 point favorites at -110, meaning that if you bet $100, you will win $90.91. Continuing in the Western Conference.
Odds to Win the West 1 Utah Jazz +300 2 Phoenix Suns +600 3 Los Angeles Clippers +250 4 Denver Nuggets +1400 5 Por… https://t.co/iloJBaJ1E3— BetOnline.ag (@BetOnline.ag)1620856741.0
Moving on to the seventh seed, the Lakers currently sit at the seventh seed and come into the playoffs finally healthy with their key pieces. The Lakers and the Trail Blazers both have a 41-30 record.
Portland plays Denver today, and if they win they surely avoid the play-ins. But if Portland loses, paired with the Lakers win against New Orleans today, then the Lakers rise to the sixth seed, and Portland falls to the seventh seed. The Lakers are ten-point favorites(-110) to beat the Pelicans. Portland is five-point underdogs against Denver, so Portland may fall to the seven seed at the end of the day.
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The Eastern Conference is similar with a three-way tie in the records between the eight to ten seeds. The Hornets and the Wizards face off this afternoon, and the winner secures the eighth spot. The Wizards hope to get Bradley Beal back who is dealing with hamstring tightness, if not the Wiz look for Russell Westbrook to finish off another historic season.
LaMelo Ball pleading to the ref: “On my momma. On my mother’s soul... On mother’s day” 💀💀💀 https://t.co/meueyVAfGC— CrossedSports (@CrossedSports)1620843995.0
The Hornets have been one of the most exciting teams in the NBA this year, a fast-paced team with many high flyers. With a backcourt of LaMelo Ball and Terry Rozier, they'll cause problems for the Washington defense. The Wizards are five-point favorites for the game today. The ten-seed Pacers play the Raptors today, a win will raise the Pacers to the nine-seed, which will give them homecourt in the first play-in. The loser of the Hornets-Wizards game today will fall to the tenth seed.
According to Vegas, the seventh seed Celtics have an 83% chance of making the playoffs, eight seed Hornets have a 48.6% chance, nine seed Wizards with a 35.1%, and finally the ten seed Pacers with a 33.4% chance. In the West, the seventh seed Lakers have an 86.6% chance, the eight seed Warriors at 64.4% chance, Grizzlies at 38.5%, and finally the Spurs at 17%.
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Especially in the West, the play-in tournament holds serious implications for the matchups for the top seeds. The play-in tournament will host a bunch of dangerous teams, like the Warriors who have been on fire and still can have Stephen Curry drop sixty points on any night. Also the reigning NBA champions, the Lakers, get all their healthy stars back, and can likely pull off a first-round upset against the top seeds.
Look for our Eastern and Western Conference breakdowns later this week once the NBA Playoff brackets are set.