NBA opens playoffs with play-in tournament

Eight teams fight to keep playoff hopes alive


Courtesy of Erik Drost

LeBron James and The Los Angeles Lakers beat the Minnesota Timberwolves in the NBA Play-In tournament Tuesday night, 108-102 (OT).

JOSEPH RUTO, Evergreen reporter

With the NBA regular season coming to an end this past weekend, the NBA playoffs are almost here. The top six seeds from each Conference automatically qualify for the playoffs, while teams ranked seventh through 10th compete in the NBA Play-In tournament, fighting for the final two playoff spots in each Conference.

The play-in tournament tips off Tuesday, with the No. 7 seeded Miami Heat hosting No. 8 Atlanta Hawks at 4:30 p.m. airing on TNT.  The winner of this game gets the No. 7 seed in the East and will face the No. 2 Boston Celtics in round one of the playoffs.

If Miami wins, we will get a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference Final in the first round between Boston and Miami.

With the playoffs around the corner, the Hawks Atlanta has been given the green light from ownership to shop Trae Young trade offers this offseason, so this could potentially be the star point guard’s last playoff with the Hawks.

The No. 7 Los Angeles Lakers host the No. 8 Minnesota Timberwolves at 7 p.m. Tuesday on TNT. The winner of this game gets the No. 7 in the West and will face the No. 2 Memphis Grizzlies in round one.

The Lakers, led by Lebron James and Anthony Davis, finished the season with excellent momentum and look to capitalize on a Timberwolves team missing their best defender, as Rudy Gobert has been suspended one game by the Timberwolves for punching teammate Kyle Anderson during their game Sunday.

The play-in tournament continues Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. on ESPN, when the No. 9 Toronto Raptors host the No. 10 Chicago Bulls. The winner gets a chance to play the loser of the Heat/Hawks game for a shot at the East’s No. 8 seed. Both the Raptors and Bulls have had underwhelming seasons, but can still make the playoffs with two wins in the Play-In.

Shortly afterward, the No. 9 New Orleans Pelicans will host the No. 10 Oklahoma City Thunder at 6:30 p.m. on ESPN. The winner of this game gets a chance to play the loser of the Lakers/Timberwolves game for a shot at the West’s No. 8 seed. Pelicans star player Zion Williamson will not be available for the play-in tournament, since being sidelined with a hamstring injury Jan. 2. 

The Thunder are one of the youngest teams in the NBA and would be ahead of schedule with a playoff appearance this year. They will look to All-Star guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to pick up the load in the continued absence of the 2022 No. 2 overall pick, Chet Holmgren, who is out for the season.

The first round of the NBA Playoffs tip off Saturday, with the NBA Finals scheduled for June 1. All NBA Finals games can be found on ABC.