The regular season draws to an end and before the playoffs begin, some teams first have to navigate the NBA play-in tournament. Mark Ross looks at those involved and who will keep themselves in contention to win the title.
The regular season of the NBA is over and the playoffs are set to begin. There is one small tournament that needs to be steeled first. It’s the tournament that you don’t want to be in, but if you are in it, you desperately want to “win it”. I say “win it” loosely. Can you really call yourself a winner for securing a playoff spot with an extra few games? Anyway, here’s everything you need to know about the NBA Play-In Tournament.
NBA debuted this tournament at the end of the 2021 season and it meant that the teams who finished seventh through tenth, in their respective conferences, would compete for the last two playoff spots. Not great if you finished seventh or eighth as it now means you have a playoff to get into the postseason. But great if you finished ninth or tenth as your season isn’t over. In a world where all the drama builds up for the postseason, it is not a surprise to see these billion-dollar businesses try and extend the drama and prolong the postseason for as long as possible. The NFL has done the same by increasing the number of teams that make the postseason.
So How Does It All Work?
Well, the teams that finished with the seventh and eighth seed in their conferences will play each other in the tournament in a one-off game to determine who gets the seventh seed. The teams that finished ninth and tenth in the regular season play each other and the winner advances to play the loser of the seventh versus eighth matchup. This, unfortunately, means that the loser of the ninth/tenth game season has come to an end and they make the trip to the sofa to watch on like the rest of us. After that, and to close out the tournament, the loser of the first match (seventh v eight) will then play the winner of the second match (ninth v tenth) to determine who takes the eighth and final spot in the postseason. Understand all of that?
The NBA has found an intriguing way to keep the drama of the postseason alive for while longer and it has given teams a chance to compete into the dying weeks of the season in the hope to secure the tenth seed or above. Let’s face it, the more drama in sport the better.
The 2022 Play-In
This season the play-in tournament is set to be filled with Superstars of the sport. Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, and Trae Young all find themselves having to advance from the tournament to keep their seasons alive.
In the Western Conference the tournament is set. The Minnesota Timberwolves (seventh seed) will be facing the eight-seed Los Angeles Clippers to secure a spot in the playoffs. The loser of that match will then play the winner of the New Orlean Pelicans against the San Antonio Spurs. San Antonio snuck into the tent seed at the last minute after the Los Angeles Lakers collapsed at the end of the season and missed out completely. Meaning their “Super Team” of LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook will be just like you and I. Sat at home watching on the telly.
Speaking of “Super Teams”, the Brooklyn Nets in the East find themselves in a battle to make the playoffs. Despite being the early season favourites, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving have had to fight to the bitter end to secure a spot in the Pay-In tournament. The teams involved from the West are the Brooklyn Nets, Cleveland Cavaliers, Atlanta Hawks, and the Charlotte Hornets. Final spots are being decided right up to the tournament beginning but it is currently Brooklyn and Cleveland in seventh and eighth and Atlanta and Charlotte making up the ninth and tenth spots.
Given that they were the early season favourites, and the fact they have Kyrie Irving available for every game now, Brooklyn should secure the seventh seed. Leaving the remaining three teams battling for the final spot. Brooklyn are actually still my pick to win the whole thing but that’s for another day.
The 2022 edition of the Play-In Tournament is set to begin on Wednesday April 13th. The first game will be from the Eastern Conference at 12 am and is looking likely to be the Brooklyn Nets (7) taking on the Cleveland Cavaliers (8). Then at 02:30, it will be the Los Angeles Clippers (8) taking on the Minnesota Timberwolves (7). The tournament runs through to Friday 15th when there will be the two WIN AND IN games to determine the final spots in the 2022 playoffs.
More sport is better for everyone and this is just another example of sport giving the customer what they want. Drama, high-quality basketball, and a chance for a Cinderella Story if the tenth seed can go all the way. Bring it on!