Play-In Tournament Preview
Updated: Apr 27, 2022
Bad Men, Bad Takes – Season 1
The regular season has finally come to a close and the post-season begins! The Play-In Tournament this season plays host to a number of talented teams who have faced injuries, as well as some lottery teams who kept fighting until the bitter end and were rewarded with an extra game (or two) for doing so.
My predictions for the opening set of Play-In games are below!
Brooklyn Nets v Cleveland Cavaliers
Much like the Western Conference, the East has a team in the Play-In Tournament who is a bonafide Playoff team in disguise.
The Brooklyn Nets will go in as heavy favourites, and rightfully so given the talents of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. Throw in Simmons who is being talked about as a potential inclusion for this post-season run, and it’s clear the Nets have a more talented collection of talent on the floor at the top end of their roster.
They have, however, struggled to find consistency with line-ups for the past 18-24 months and Ben Simmons’ failure to take the floor following the trade that sent James Harden out the door does nothing to alleviate my concerns around the cohesiveness of the players on the court.
Kevin Durant is undoubtedly the best player among these two teams, and should help the Nets get a win. Credit: Sports Illustrated.
The Cavaliers have an opposite problem of sorts, with the team having been together all season for the most part, but being crippled with injuries as it progressed. Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen will provide a solid foundation of star power and consistency, but questions remain over Evan Mobley and what he will produce in his first taste of post-season basketball, albeit despite an impressive rookie campaign.
Both teams enter this game with rosters who are capable of far more than the position they find themselves in now, but it’s the top end talent that sets the Nets apart in the match-up and should see them win in a close one.
Verdict: Brooklyn 116, Cleveland 108.
Atlanta Hawks v Charlotte Hornets
Grab your cowboy hat and saddle up kids, we’ve got a shootout brewing down in Georgia!
This is the game I’m most excited to see during the Play-In Tournament. Not only because it features two electric guards who are elite play-makers and can get hot as hell from behind the arc, but because it sees the coming together of two teams who possess below average defensive ratings as well as top-10 offensive ratings. This is going to be fun!
The season series was split 2-2 with games stretching from November to March, however the Hornets claimed the most impressive win of the bunch in my opinion, a 130-127 victory without LaMelo Ball. That match included multiple players who won’t be suiting up for Charlotte in this game however, including Gordon Hayward and Ish Smith.
Fans can expect Ball and Young to put on an offensive show in their match-up. Credit: Los Angeles Times
This is anyone’s guess as the Hornets in my mind have been the better team for the heavy majority of the season, whereas the Hawks started slow and have slowly improved up until this point. Overall, when comparing two streaky teams who don’t play a lot of defence, my inclination is to go with the team who either has the best player, or the most depth.
Despite the Hornets having some fantastic players who can get hot, I feel like Atlanta is the pick here.
Verdict: Atlanta 118, Charlotte 114
Minnesota Timberwolves v Los Angeles Clippers
Poor old Minnesota Timberwolves.
It’s not enough that they struggle to even make the post-season for a decade plus, then make it and lose their best player in Jimmy Butler. They then slide into irrelevancy for a number of years, before turning things around this season and finding themselves at risk of not even making the first round due to the Play-In Tournament. It’s a tough reality, but one the Wolves will have to face – and they’ve drawn an opponent I wouldn’t think they were keen to play.
The Wolves and Clippers have met four times this season, but all meetings were done and dusted a week after the New Year started, so it’s hard to know what to take from those games and what to leave to the wayside.
On one hand, the Clippers won the season series 3-1. They dominated the three match-ups in November with an average winning margin of 19 points, with Paul George top scoring for the team in all three outings. They looked in control for the majority of time in all of those games and the result rarely looked in doubt come the fourth quarter.
Reggie Jackson and the Clippers will face a familiar face in Patrick Beverley, who was traded to the Wolves in the off-season. Credit: KARE 11
In January, the Wolves claimed their lone win against LA, and did so without the services of Karl-Anthony Towns, but the Clippers were without Paul George and Luke Kennard. That Clippers team also saw Serge Ibaka, Eric Bledsoe and Justice Winslow combine to play 64 minutes – none of whom remain with the team.
There is more than enough talent on both sides of the court for either side to claim victory and both are in great form heading into this game. The Clippers have played the Wolves well all season though and it’s hard to read into an early January loss which featured a host of out-of-the-norm rotation pieces for LA.
Verdict: Minnesota 109, Los Angeles 120.
New Orleans Pelicans v San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs have been a model of consistency all season. That’s not to say they’ve been the Spurs of old, conquering everyone in their path, but to say they haven’t had many great highs or severe lows. They’ve just kind of…gone about their business, which is nothing ground-breaking for a Gregg Popovich coached team, but it sets up an intriguing match-up.
The Pelicans have been much improved in the second half of the season, especially since the trade that brought CJ McCollum to Louisiana, but they are still prone to a large spectrum of performances as demonstrated throughout the regular season with their 3-16 start, as well as their more recent run of form which has seen them win nine games out of thirteen in a stretch from March 14-April 8, including a win over the Spurs.
The season series favours the Spurs 3-1 with an average winning margin of nearly ten points, but the Pelicans sole win was a 33-point blowout less than a month ago. CJ McCollum lead a whole team effort for the Pelicans that day, with six Pelicans players scoring in double figures while holding the Spurs to just 36% shooting from the field.
DeJounte Murray’s play has helped the Spurs be consistent all season. Credit: MySA
Those figures show what the ceiling for the Pelicans is heading into this do-or-die match-up, but the season series also highlights the lack of consistency in their performances. In a one-off, I’m backing the team who’s given me more certainty in their performances throughout the whole season, but the Pelicans definitely have what it takes to explode and take victory.
Verdict: New Orleans 110, San Antonio 114.
So, what do you think? Did I get it right? Did I mess it up? Let me know on twitter (@BMBTPodcast) or send us an email at BMBTPodcast@gmail.com!
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