Round One of The NBA Play-In Tournament Recap

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Brock Adams, Staff Writer

Sunday evening marked the end of the 2020-2021 NBA Regular Season, which proved to be anything but ordinary as arenas were filled with 25% of their maximum capacity. Players and coaches were seen on the sidelines socially distanced with masks. Despite a few bumps in the road throughout the season, the pandemic was played through by all 30 teams. Now, all eyes shift to the NBA playoffs, which fittingly began with the first-ever play-in tournament in a time of unfamiliarity. 

The play-in tournament consists of four teams from each conference, these teams being the Lakers, Warriors, Grizzlies, Spurs, Celtics, Pacers, Wizards, and Hornets. The seeding ranges from the 7th to 10th seed in each conference. The 8th and 7th seeds will play each other in a one-game series, and the winner will earn the 7th seed in the field of eight. The loser of this matchup will not pack their bags after the loss, as they will play the winner of the 9th vs. 10th seed matchup. The winner of this game will earn the final spot in the playoffs and face the number one seed in the classic seven-game series. To simplify, the playoff requirements for the 7th and 8th seed are to win just one game out of two, whereas the 9th and 10th seed must win two games in a row. 

Day one of the play-in tournament was a day of blowouts as the Indiana Pacers dominated the Charlotte Hornets from the opening tip with a final score of 144-117, and the Boston Celtics pulled away from the Washington Wizards in the 4th quarter resulting in a Boston win of 118-100. The Celtics earned the 7th seed and will now match up against the Brooklyn Nets, who many believe are the major favorite to win the championship. The Wizards will play the Pacers on Thursday, and the winner will receive the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and play the number one seed 76ers.

The Western Conference play-in tournament took place Wednesday. It proved to be much closer than Tuesday’s contests as the Memphis Grizzlies defeated the San Antonio Spurs 100-96, and the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Golden State Warriors 103-100 in thrilling fashion. Lebron James’ 36-foot three-pointer in the final minute was just enough to send the Lakers to the playoffs as the seventh seed to face the two-seed Pheonix Suns. The Warriors were hindered by second-half turnovers, despite 37 points provided by Stephen Curry, who averaged 32 points per game in the regular season. The Warriors will face the Memphis Grizzlies in San Fransisco on Friday, determining who will face the one seed Utah Jazz in the first round of the playoffs. This game will be a rematch of Sunday’s contest as the Warriors defeated the Grizzlies at home to earn the eighth seed in the play-in tournament. 

Friday will be when the entire playoff picture finally materializes, leaving the final 16 teams to battle it out until one champion is crowned. The success of the play-in tournament’s second-day games may be the catalyst for the permanent adaptation of the play-in format.      

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