A preview of NBA play-in games

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Photo via Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons license

Every team’s goal is to make the NBA finals.

Joe Flynn, The Delphi Editor

The NBA regular season is finally over. Now fans can get to the part they actually care about: the playoffs.

Before the NBA playoffs officially begin, the NBA has the play-in games. The play-in games are a new addition to the playoff format, and a promising one. The format is a little confusing so here’s a breakdown of how it works.

From each conference, the 7-10 seeds will compete in “play-in games.” The 7 seed will face the 8 seed in game 1, in game 2 the 9 seed and 10 seed will face off, and in game 3, whichever team lost game 1 faces the winner of game 2. To make it even simpler, a 7/8 seed only has to win one game to clinch the 7 seed in the actual playoffs, and a 9/10 seed has to win 2 games to become the 8 seed.

Many NBA fans dislike the play-in games, and I did, too, originally. Then, the Wizards made the play-in games as the 8 seed, which means we get to see Russ go all out for the next couple of days. Beal is dying to be in the playoffs, and again Russ lives for this moment. He’s ready to say, “Did you really think I was going to miss this?” Westbrook is notorious for going off when doubted or provoked. He has been both doubted and provoked this year by NBA fans and analysts. He’s going to shoot the ball 50 times in 2 games, it’s going to be great!

In the Eastern Conference, the Celtics are the 7 seed and will be facing off against the 8 seed Wizards. The Hornets are the 9 seed, and the Pacers are the 10 seed. 

The Celtics and Wizards facing off will be great if you ask me. The Celtics look absolutely terrible, and the Wizards are barely staying afloat. Brad Stevens is doing the best he can, but the front office hasn’t given him much to work with. The Celtics are in desperate need of good defensive big men, and good offensive big men. They just need some good big men. Tatum has carried this team, but only to a 36-36 record, Kemba has been injured a lot this season, and the Celtics officially have a Marcus Smart problem.

I’ll start with Tatum. He has been great this year but hasn’t done what Luka Doncic is able to do, to carry a team. I left Tatum off the All-NBA team because of his inability to change a game like Luka does every single day. He’s doing his best but has to be able to change the game to take the next step in his career.

Kemba Walker isn’t worth the money the C’s spent on him; he hasn’t been on the court a whole lot this year, and when he is you never know what he’s going to do. He’ll either score 28 points on 60% shooting or score 11 points on 25% shooting. There’s no healthy medium with him; he has to be better at managing the game when he isn’t shooting well.

I hate to be the guy to sound the alarm, but I have to do it. The Celtics have a Marcus Smart problem. I’m a Marcus Smart fan, he plays defense with intensity and elevates the game intensity. But for the love of God, he has to stop shooting deep threes; you’d think he was Steph Curry the way he pulls up from deep. And it’s not like he does it at the end of the shot clock, and has to throw up a three, he does it at the beginning of the shot clock. Marcus Smart has wasted so many offensive possessions and needs to learn he can’t shoot threes well.

The Wizards have been surprisingly good lately, and more importantly, resilient. Russ averaged a triple double this season, Beal finished second in scoring this season, and Daniel Gafford has been really valuable down the stretch. 

My bet is on the Celtics to win. Brad Stevens has some tricks up his sleeve and will make sure Scott Brooks doesn’t out-coach him. Because at the root of this matchup, it’s a battle of coaches. Each team has their stars, but this game will come down to who coaches their team better.

The Hornets vs. Pacers won’t even be a good game, without a doubt the Hornets will win by a good margin. Lamelo will try his absolute hardest, and play defense for a change. Monk will go off on offense, Rozier will make some clutch threes, and the defense will handle the Pacers. I have zero faith in the Pacers, time to move on to the possible matchup between the Hornets and Wizards. 

The Wizards and Hornets will be a great game and it’s why I’m for the play-in games now. Like I said before, Russ will go all out, Beal will score 35, and Scott Brooks will try to prove that he is a good coach. James Borrego would be coaching for his job, Lamelo will be playing to prove he’s the rookie of the year, and Malik Monk will channel his inner clutch gene. 

The 7-10 seeds will be playing in the play-in games only to lose to the 1 and 2 seeds, the 76ers being the 1 seed, and the Nets being the 2 seed. Russ will try his best to carry the Wizards if they face the 76ers, but both of the play-in teams that move on to the actual playoffs will be swept. 

Moving on to Western Conference, the 7-10 seeds in order are the Lakers, Warriors, Grizzlies, and the Spurs. The Western Conference, as usual, is filled with better teams even if they are higher seeds. Russ trying his absolute hardest will be fun, but not as fun as Lakers vs. Warriors in the play-in games. LeBron will try to preserve his pride by beating the team that has beaten him in the Finals multiple times, and Curry will put the team on his back once again for a chance to be in the playoffs.

One game between these two teams is all NBA fans need; it will be a great game. Curry will be jacking up threes left and right, hopefully making them. LeBron will be picking apart the defense while taking it easy, because of his high ankle sprain. AD will not be taking it easy, however, he will try to show off his ability to win in the clutch.

The Grizzlies vs the Spurs will not be as good of a game. The Grizzlies will win by a decent margin because I believe the Spurs want to tank so bad, but they don’t want to swallow their pride. Popovich is unwilling to accept that the NBA is different, and offense wins games. He continues to use old-school methods to try and win games, but it’s not working in his favor. Somehow the Knicks have been able to play old-school, defense-oriented basketball, and win, but they’re an anomaly. 

I believe the Warriors will lose to the Lakers and have to face the Grizzlies, and that will be interesting. The Warriors have Curry, but that’s about it. The Grizzlies are led by Ja Morant, and have great role players, like Grayson Allen, Dillion Brooks, Kyle Anderson, and Jonas Valanciunas. The Warriors will be tested by this Grizzlies team, but we haven’t seen Ja in a big moment like this in his career yet. We have seen Curry, however, and he delivers in these situations. Either way, the Warriors/Grizzlies will lose to the Jazz in the first round. 

The Lakers have a shot against the Suns in the playoffs, and the series will be very entertaining. Maybe even going to seven games. LeBron is nursing his ankle and trying to deke the league out by saying he will never be the same again, yeah okay LeBron. The Suns have been unbelievably good this season, the Chris Paul effect is a real thing, and this solidifies his place as a top-five point guard all time.

Devin Booker is an automatic 25 points, and Ayton has been solid all year in the paint. Frank Vogel isn’t a great coach, but he has LeBron and AD so he looks like one. Monty Williams isn’t a great coach but has CP3, Booker, and Ayton so he looks like one. Williams will probably win coach of the year because he has done a good job with implementing a system so three stars can co-exist on the court together. The first round will be a good one, that’s for sure.