We are close to the tipoff of the NBA Play-In Tournament which will be from May 18th-21st and it should be exciting. It’s always enticing to ponder about potential matchups. The teams finishing seventh and eighth in both conferences respectively will be in the play-in tournament. They will play amongst the ninth and tenth seeds in their conference. Last year, we only saw a glimpse of the competitiveness when trying to earn a playoff spot. The Portland Trail Blazers and the Memphis Grizzlies took on one another in a great matchup. Portland was able to take the win in a single game, but it was a down-to-the-wire victory as Memphis was up by 8 with just over 9 minutes to go in the 4th quarter.
With that in mind, this year’s play-in tournament should not disappoint as we will be able to see top-notch teams play their heart out for a playoff spot. The Eastern Conference is definitely something that fans must look at, considering the 4th seed is only two games ahead of the 8th seed. There will be a lot of competitiveness that will have to be shown if these teams want to solidify their playoff position. The Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat are not exactly in the position they wanted to be in and have had disappointing starts. Meanwhile, in the Western Conference, the Los Angeles Lakers are starting to fall more in the standings with their two superstars out due to injury. Based on this, there is a chance they could be in danger of having to play in the tournament.
2021 NBA Play-In Tournament: Three Exciting Potential Matchups
Student vs Master
Despite only being his 3rd NBA season, Luka Doncic has shocked the basketball world, racking up records like it is nothing. He is on track to help bring his team to the playoffs for the 2nd straight season. It would be incredible to see a matchup against one of this generation’s best basketball players in Stephen Curry. A matchup between the Golden State Warriors and Dallas Mavericks would be incredibly exciting to watch. The February 6th matchup between these two teams was must-watch basketball as Doncic and Curry combined for 99 points!
The main factor, however, in this series would be to see how Kristaps Porzingis will perform. Porzingis, in his 5th season, will likely make his 2nd trip to the playoffs alongside Doncic and was great for the three playoff games he played last season against the Los Angeles Clippers. After recovering from the unfortunate meniscus tear, Porzingis had a slow start to the season, but since has performed well.
This will be a bigger challenge, however, for rookie James Wiseman as his inexperience could carry over. He was diagnosed with a torn meniscus, but if he does recover in time, it’ll be interesting to see how he performs. He only takes around one triple a game, and that may not translate the best against a Dallas Mavericks team that takes almost 38 threes combined. Nevertheless, it should be a very exciting matchup centered around the matchup of Curry vs Doncic.
Play-In Tournament Rematch
Two of the greatest shooters of all time, two of the best point guards in the NBA today, and two of the best personalities off-court. Damian Lillard and Stephen Curry have played against each other in the playoffs three times already. It’s no surprise that the Warriors have had their number every single matchup. However, this may be Lillard’s best chance at finally winning a matchup against Stephen Curry in the postseason. He has a better team on paper, with much better depth.
The only big issues are health with the Blazers. Center Jusuf Nurkic seemingly can’t get away from injuries, after his major injury late in the 2018-19 season, and a wrist injury earlier this season. Zach Collins nursed a stress fracture in his ankle and is yet to play a game this season. Insiders say that he is questionable to return for the postseason, after only playing 11 games last season. Otherwise, they got some really solid additions in Robert Covington, Derrick Jones Jr., and the recently acquired Norman Powell. All of these additions will take the court with the renowned backcourt of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. There is a high possibility that Portland will win if these two teams take on each other in a play-in tournament. However, you never know with the brilliance of Curry.
Bubble vs Reality
The NBA Disney Bubble showcased an exciting Eastern Conference Finals matchup between the Celtics and the Heat. Miami ended up taking the crown and entered the NBA Finals for the first time since 2014. Boston, on the other hand, would lose in the Conference Finals for the 4th straight time dating all the way back to 2012. Coming into this season, both of these teams were expected to be contenders once again. However, both teams have disappointed thus far, as both are barely over the .500 mark.
With the NBA returning back to their home arenas things may be different. The Celtics added Tristan Thompson to give them some experience and attempt to fill their weakness at the center position. They drafted two promising rookies in Payton Pritchard and Aaron Nesmith. Then, at the trade deadline, they acquired Evan Fournier, Mo Wagner, and Luke Kornet. Although they lost a scorer in Gordon Hayward over the offseason, Boston has managed to make their roster manageable and are now 7-3 since the trade deadline.
On the other hand, Miami didn’t make a huge splash in free agency as they lost a vital role player in Jae Crowder. However, they bounced back at the deadline acquiring veterans Victor Oladipo, Trevor Ariza, and Nemanja Bjelica. Miami is 6-2 since the deadline, as well, further building up their case to become a scary team to play in the playoffs once again.
If these two teams somehow meet in the play-in tournament, that will be a treat that must be savored. A rematch of the ECF with different supporting casts will be enticing and enjoyable to watch for the fans everywhere.
Teams To Watch Out For In the Play-In Tournament
With the race being so competitive in both conferences, there is a huge list of teams to watch out for. Other than the teams already listed in exciting matchups, there are plenty more that you must be aware of. The San Antonio Spurs have had a great season so far, exceeding expectations, despite not being the best team on paper. A lot of their success has to do with their underrated young core, but give credit to the Spurs coaching staff as always. The Memphis Grizzlies, coveted around young freakish star Ja Morant, is another team to look out for. Taylor Jenkins and the Grizzlies have established a great record despite having an insane amount of injuries, and the fact that Jaren Jackson Jr. is yet to play a game this season.
If the Atlanta Hawks, fall down to the play-in tournament, they could be scary. The Trae Young-led side is in the hunt to make the playoffs for the first time since 2017. Since the firing of Lloyd Pierce, the Hawks have been on a roll and are a team to watch. The Indiana Pacers are another team to watch out for. Despite going through a lot of injuries all season long, they have a talented roster. The New Orleans Pelicans have a very talented young core, yet have been disappointing once again. However, Zion Williamson never fails to disappoint making his first all-star game this season.
Despite promising rookie LaMelo Ball being sidelined due to injury, the Charlotte Hornets have still been playing very well. They are sitting at a very solid record and should be dangerous if they do fall to the play-in tournament. The NBA Play-In Tournament will be incredibly exciting and fans cannot wait to see what is in store for their team.