The Regular Season is officially closed. But, before the Playoffs start, eight time have to compete for the last available seats via Play-In.
The formula is very simple: seventh vs eighth (the winning team passes the turn) and nineth vs tenth. The loser between seventh and eighth will clash with the winner between nineth and tenth. Let’s see what the pairings will be.
Eastern Conference’s Play-In
Brooklyn vs Cleveland (Tuesday night) and Atlanta vs Charlotte (Wednesday night) will settle the score in the Eastern Conference.
Brooklyn Nets vs Cleveland Cavaliers
Thanks to last night wins against the Pacers, the Nets have earned the home advantage: beating the Cavaliers, they will directly access, without further effort. The ex of the match, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, are in great shape: in the last match of the Regular Season, 35 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists, with 75% from the field for Kyrie and a triple double with 20 points, 10 rebounds and 16 assists (career high) for Kevin. Ben Simmons will be still not available, but rumors say that he could return for the Playoffs, in case of qualification.
A W for Cavaliers too against the Bucks lacking in its regular starting five: in last night game, Coach Bickerstaff gave ample space to the second lines and enough playing time to his stars, in order to guarantee a perfect level of shape to everyone for the match against Brooklyn. In addition to the usual Garland and Mobley (and Markkanen in great form), shines the star of Kevin Love: 32 points, 10 rebounds, 8/11 from behind the arch in 14 minutes from the bench. His experience will be crucial to attempt the landing to the post-season: he will lead his young teammates just starting out in the biggest stage.
Atlanta Hawks vs Charlotte Hornets
The Hawks have won an essential match in order to mantain the nineth place and keep the advantage in the series against Charlotte. Trae Young scored his usual double-doublewith 28 points and 11 assists, Danilo Gallinari accompanied him with 26 points, 6/8 3-pointers. Atlanta follows the trend that has kept it afloat over the last few months, raising hopes for a Playoffs spot, planning to have John Collins back after his foot surgery.
Second attempt for Charlotte, already eliminated in the Play-In last year. LaMelo Ball is an All Star, Miles Bridges has raised the bar of his game and Terry Rozier took some extra offensive responsibility when the other two had a bad night. Apart from them, the Hornets do not seem very equipped to cope with highest level opponents. We will see if Borrego’s men will succeed in subverting the prediction.
Western Conference’s Play-In
Tuesday night Minnesota vs Clippers will open the ball, that will continue Wednesday night with Pelicans vs Spurs.
Minnesota Timberwolves vs Los Angeles Clippers
Timberwolves are definitely a surprise in the Western Conference, even though the Towns-Russell-Edwards trio has everything they need to play at high level, even against tough opponents. Furthermore, KAT took part in the All Star Game and won the Three Point Contest. He is playing his best basketball in offense, it is effective and consistent. Timberwolves are a true loose cannon who’s eager to find their place among the biggest franchises and the first stage is a W against the Clippers.
Clippers are rehearsing for a return in style. In the last Matchdays, Paul George came back in action. Kawhi Leonard is finishing his preparation in order to debut in the post-season, even though nothing has been confirmed yet. With these two back at full speed, the Clippers could safely aim for a very respectable path in the Playoffs. Without Kawhi, it could be difficult enough.
New Orleans Pelicans vs San Antonio Spurs
After last night match against the Warriors, the Pelicans arrive to Wednesday game with all the regulars well-rested. Coach Green preferred to benching his best players in a match that had nothing to add to the good path made in the RS. Ingram, Valanciunas and McCollum are more than ready to face this challenge, in order to give to New Orleans the Playoffs that have been missing for three years.
The Spurs will try to get in Pelicans’ way: Popovich, the most winning coach in NBA history, is managing to operate a team of young and promising players, led by Dejounte Murray. The product of the Washington Huskies is experiencing a fabulous individual season: he was selected for the All Star Game and he occupies the second place in the list of most triple-doubles in 2021/2022 Regular Season. His efforts, combined with the efforts of the other players of the team, are producing wonderful fruits.