Lebron vs Curry, the Crashing Celtics and the Magical Wizards: Predictions for the 2021 NBA Play-in
When the NBA finally restarted in August 2020 after shutting down last year in March due to COVID-19, they made one tweak to the playoff race that shaped the game that we see today, and quite possibly in the future. If any team finished the regular season within four games of the eight seed, the top team among those qualified would be allowed to play against the eight seed in a play-in game to decide who gets the last spot in the playoffs.
Fast forward one season, and the NBA decides to expand this idea further. Now, there is be a four team play-in for teams who place 7-10 in each conference. As the regular season comes to a close and the playoffs are right around the corner, the race for certain spots within the play-in are heating up. Just three games separate the 7th and 10th seeds in the East, and 23 teams still have the chance to make the playoffs (after the games of 5/11/21).
So, each and every seed is still up for grabs, and all of the games should have a lot of action and emotion. Without further ado, here's who Let's Talk Sports believes will take each seed in the play-in as well as the results of each game.
Teams Seeded 1-6: Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets, Milwaukee Bucks, Atlanta Hawks, Miami Heat, New York Knicks
7th Seed: Boston Celtics- Despite currently playing the worst basketball of their season, the Celtics somehow enter in the 7th seed. They'll need to pick it back up if they want to have any shot of making the actual playoffs.
8th Seed: Charlotte Hornets- The Hornets are a bit banged up, but they are still a solid team that can make some noise in the playoffs. LaMelo Ball will be a sight to see in the play-in, and the rest of the team is relatively deep too.
Result: Celtics win and get the 7 seed- In the playoffs, it is foolish to ignore star power, which is Boston's greatest advantage. The Hornets have no defensive answer for Jayson Tatum, so my prediction is that he goes off for 50 points and gets a W.
9th Seed: Washington Wizards- The Wiz have been hot over the last month and a half, and stormed through the East standings. Bradley Beal is dealing with an ankle injury, but he will be cleared before the game so no worries there. Also, Russell Westbrook is playing the best basketball he has in a long time.
10th Seed: Indiana Pacers- The definition of mediocrity, the Pacers have stayed consistently in this area for most of the season. However, a tough schedule down the stretch has displaced them lower in the standings than predicted.
Result: Wizards win and move to the final play-in- These teams have had a few close battles in the regular season, and they have yet another one here in the play-in. But, the duo of Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal gets it done and secures another game.
Final Play-in Game (Hornets vs Wizards): In a divisional matchup, the final two teams fight for the eight seed. With neither team possessing a strong defense, the game has tons of scoring. After scoring 80 points total between the two of them, Beal and Westbrook pull off the upset and give the Wizards a shot to make a playoff run.
Teams Seeded 1-6: Utah Jazz, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Clippers, Denver Nuggets, Dallas Mavericks, Portland Trail Blazers
7th Seed: Los Angeles Lakers- Obviously not the prediction anyone had for the reigning champions, but crazy things happen each year. LA should be at full strength by the time the playoffs start, but they've struggled with injuries all year and that could still inhibit them.
8th Seed: Golden State Warriors- The Warriors are hitting their stride right before the playoffs, which is dangerous for any team that they might face. However, they are pretty much a one man team, with Steph Curry carrying the entire team on his back. This could be their success, or their downfall.
Result: The Lakers take the game and the 7th seed- The Lakers have not had a good season by any means, but Lebron James does not mess around in the playoffs. LA easily outsizes the Warriors with James and Anthony Davis, and they come away with the W.
9th Seed: Memphis Grizzlies- Originally on the bubble, the Grizzlies have strung together a bunch of wins and moved up to the 9th seed. Ja Morant has been sneaky good this year and could give the Grizzlies a spark of life in his first playoff run.
10th Seed: San Antonio Spurs- Yes, they play boring basketball. But, the Spurs have continued to have relative success with a new young core plus veterans like DeMar DeRozan. However, there isn't any real power within this team and their still confusing to read.
Result: The Grizzlies run away with this game and stay alive. Although the Spurs have a shot coming in, they have been bogged down by injuries and still could be missing integral parts of their lineup. So, Morant and the Grizzlies take this handily.
Final Play-In Game (Warriors vs Grizzlies): In an elite point guard matchup, Steph Curry and Ja Morant clash for the final spot. Despite being a more rounded team, the Grizzlies fall due to their inability to guard Curry. So, the Warriors move on while the Grizzlies fall.