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NBA Play-In Tournament: Hostilities Begin In Earnest

The Post-Season is finally upon us.

The organizers of the league tweaked the playoffs with the inclusion of the Play-In Tournament to further boost the competitive nature of the route leading to the Championship. The four games listed below get to determine the final Nos. 7 and 8 seeds in both the Eastern and the Western Conferences: East: (7) Brooklyn Nets vs. (8) Cleveland Cavaliers East: (9) Atlanta Hawks vs. (10) Charlotte Hornets West: (7) Minnesota Timberwolves vs. (8) Los Angeles Clippers West: (9) New Orleans Pelicans vs. (10) San Antonio Spurs

8 teams enter. 4 teams advance. WIN. TO. GET. IN. The #MetaQuestPlayIn starts tonight 🔥 — NBA (@NBA) April 12, 2022

How The Play-In Tournament Works Starting later today with the Cavaliers vs. Nets and Clippers vs. Timberwolves games, the opportunity for these eight teams to grab the remaining four playoff spots begins in earnest. The winner of the 7-8 games will officially be in the playoffs as the No. 7 seed in their respective conferences, while the loser of the 9-10 games will be eliminated. From there, the loser of the 7-8 game will play the winner of the 9-10 games to see who gets the final playoff ticket as the No. 8 seed. Now in its second year, the play-in tournament has largely been a success, keeping playoff hopes alive even for teams like the Pelicans and Spurs, who finished a combined 22 games below .500. With stars like Kevin Durant, LaMelo Ball, Trae Young, Karl-Anthony Towns, Kyrie Irving, Paul George and Darius Garland all participating, there should be no shortage of quality basketball.

The play-in starts today. KD has won 17 of 19 vs Cavs, going back to his Warriors days. PG is 3-0 vs Timberwolves this season. — StatMuse (@statmuse) April 12, 2022

East: (7) Brooklyn Nets vs. (8) Cleveland Cavaliers After an up-and-down season plagued by injury, discontent, and local regulation preventing the un-vaccinated Kyrie Irving from playing home games for most of the season, the Nets are ready to put that behind them in pursuit of their ultimate goal: An NBA championship. Standing in the Nets’ way are the Cleveland Cavaliers, set to visit Barclays Center on Tuesday night as part of the 7-8 seed play-in game. While the Cavs will focus most of their defensive attention on Kevin Durant, the battle of the point guards will be the one to watch here. Irving, a major part of three Finals runs from 2015-17 and the championship team in 2016 for Cleveland, is now clear to play in home games. Meanwhile, Garland, a first-time All-Star this season after averaging 21.7 points and 8.6 assists, is doing well to make Cavs fans forget about Irving. Both can break down the point of attack and send defenses scrambling to stop a drive or cover a now wide-open shooter following a kick-out pass. Irving will want to remind Cavs fans who the best point guard on the floor is, with Garland looking to establish himself as an elite NBA floor general in his first postseason experience. Should Brooklyn win, they will secure a spot in the playoffs, taking on the second seed Boston Celtics. If they lose, they will face the winner of the 9-10 play-in game between the Charlotte Hornets and Atlanta Hawks.

Gotta bring out the dog tonight 🐶@KeyBank | #LetEmKnow — Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) April 12, 2022

East: (9) Atlanta Hawks vs. (10) Charlotte Hornets It is a battle of All-Star point guards, both Young and Ball have points to prove. Ball will be getting his first taste of the postseason, as will most of his teammates, given that Charlotte has not reached the playoffs since 2016. Gordon Hayward, one of the few veterans on the team with postseason experience, will miss the play-in tournament and be out indefinitely because of foot soreness. Following a rough 17-25 start to the season, Young led the Hawks to the NBA’s third-ranked offense (118.4) and fifth-best net rating (plus-4.7) while going 26-14. John Collins missed 23 of the last 27 games with finger and foot injuries and is unlikely to play, although the Hawks have proven they can win while only going eight deep in the rotation. Atlanta has been one on a resurgence over the last few months and has the playoff experience edge here. They would like emerge victorious and move on to face the Cavaliers while the Hornets go home.

The Play-In Tournament in the Eastern Conference is set. ◽️ (7) Brooklyn Nets vs. (8) Cleveland Cavaliers ◽️ (9) Atlanta Hawks vs. (10) Charlotte Hornets — The Athletic NBA (@TheAthleticNBA) April 10, 2022

West: (7) Minnesota Timberwolves vs. (8) Los Angeles Clippers When George made his first playoff appearance with the Indiana Pacers in 2011, Edwards was just nine years old. This kind of experience advantage could play a factor, as George has nearly as many postseason starts under his belt (108) as Edwards does regular-season starts (127). George returned to the Clippers lineup on March 29 and averaged 22.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, 6.8 assists, 2.8 steals and shot a blistering 52.5 percent from three in five games. With Kawhi Leonard still recovering from a torn ACL, the Clippers will have to continue to rely on George to carry the offensive load. This does not mean Edwards can not outplay him, of course. The second-year guard averaged 23.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.0 assists on 46.3 percent shooting in his four games vs. the Clippers this season, taking over the primary scoring duties with Karl-Anthony Towns struggling mightily (15.3 points on 42.1 percent shooting) in the series.

The Western Conference Play-In matchups are set. ▫️Timberwolves vs. Clippers ▫️Pelicans vs Spurs The winner of Pelicans vs Spurs faces the loser of Timberwolves vs Clippers for the final play-in spot. — The Athletic NBA (@TheAthleticNBA) April 10, 2022

George will likely be tasked with guarding Edwards, although Norman Powell and Nicolas Batum should see some time on the second-year player as well. That said, the Clippers, on paper, look the better team with it’s roster, and with Coach Ty Lue (who won the Championship with Cavs in 2016) at the helm, Los Angeles will win and lock horns with the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round, while the Timberwolves play the winner of the New Orleans Pelicans-San Antonio Spurs game. West: (9) New Orleans Pelicans vs. (10) San Antonio Spurs While they may not match up against each other every possession, this game will likely come down to the play of the two star guards, a la CJ McCollum and Dejounte Murray. McCollum helped save what was once a 1-12 start to the season for the Pelicans, guiding them to the seventh-best net rating (plus-4.4) since the trade deadline. He was highly successful against the Spurs as a Pelican, putting up 29.3 points, 7.0 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.3 steals while shooting 51.5 percent overall in three games. Murray recently missed five games with an upper respiratory illness but should be a go against New Orleans. His conditioning could be an issue, however. Although he nearly averaged a triple-double during the regular-season series against the Pelicans with 18.3 points, 9.8 rebounds and 10.0 assists in his four games, Murray shot just 40.3 percent overall and 26.3 percent from three.

"It's win or go home. I love these types of games and we don't want to go home."@DejounteMurray | #PorVida — San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) April 12, 2022

New Orleans has enough big guys to challenge him at the rim with Herbert Jones, Larry Nance Jr. and Jonas Valanciunas, making Murray rely more on his mid-range and outside shooting. In a tight battle, look for McCollum to have a huge game with Murray still working to get his conditioning back. New Orleans plays the Timberwolves while the Spurs are eliminated.

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