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Silver Screen and Roll 13 May, 2021 - 02:46pm 12 views

When is the NBA play in tournament?

When is the play-in, and when do the actual playoffs start? The play-in tournament will take place from May 18-21. Washington PostWhat to know about the NBA’s play-in tournament and the 2021 playoffs

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Steph Curry vs. LeBron James is a possibility as play-in game excitement heats up

USA TODAY 14 May, 2021 - 01:01am

With just four days left in the regular season, the intrigue surrounding the play-in format has drawn more attention than the race for the No. 1 seed.

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SportsPulse: The NBA Roundtable identifies a few potential play-in teams not named the Lakers that could make life difficult for a top seed in the first round. USA TODAY

The NBA implemented the play-in game to create excitement, make more games meaningful and curtail tanking.

With just four days left in the regular season, the intrigue surrounding the play-in format has drawn more attention than the race for the No. 1 seed, buoyed by the prospect of the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers needing to win a play-in game to make the playoffs.

In short, the seventh- and eighth-place teams in both conferences aren’t guaranteed a playoff spot. The league has given the ninth- and 10th-place teams a shot at reaching the playoffs.

Here’s how it works and who might end up in the play-in game format.

A look at the NBA standings and playoff picture with four days remaining in the regular season: pic.twitter.com/NVkPOEsgNs

After the regular season concludes, the seventh- and eighth-place teams play each other and the winner earns the No. 7 seed. The loser of that game plays the winner of the 9-10 game. The winner of that game becomes the No. 8 seed. To give the teams that had a better record during the regular season an advantage, teams 7-8 need to win just one play-in game to advance and teams 9-10 need to win two games.

The play-in games are May 18-21 with the 16-team, best-of-7 playoffs beginning May 22.

In the East, the picture is a bit more clear than in the West, though tiebreakers convolute the scenarios.

Boston, Charlotte, Indiana and Washington are in spots 7-10. The top six seeds in the East are set, so none of these teams can finish above No. 7.

The Celtics do not have seventh place secured. They are a 1½ game ahead of the Hornets and Pacers. All the Celtics need to do is win one of their final two games, and because they own the tiebreaker against Charlotte and Indiana, they will finish in the seven place in the East. That won't be easy. Boston is banged up, without Jaylen Brown for the rest of the season and have lost nine of its past 13 games.

Celtics’ remaining games: at Minnesota, at New York Knicks

Though Charlotte and Indiana have identical records and each have three games remaining, the Hornets are in ninth place because they own the head-to-head tiebreaker. Charlotte does not have it easy the rest of the way, playing three teams who are jostling for playoff or play-in positions. Indiana doesn't have a cakewalk either.

Hornets’ remaining games: vs. Los Angeles Clippers, at New York Knicks, at Washington Wizards

Pacers’ remaining games: vs. Milwaukee, vs. Los Angeles Lakers, at Toronto

In the West, the seventh-place Lakers, who are still waiting for LeBron James to return, still have a chance to move into the sixth or fifth spot, but they need help. At 40-30, they are a game behind Portland and Dallas, who share 41-29 records.

Both the Blazers and Mavericks own the tiebreaker against the Lakers, so for the Lakers to avoid the play-in game, they would need to win their two remaining games and either Dallas or Portland would have to lose both of their remaining games. So, Portland and Dallas could still end up in the play-in game, and the Blazers have the most difficult schedule of the three teams. But if it’s the Lakers in the seventh spot, they could face eighth-place Golden State in a tantalizing play-in game.

Lakers’ remaining games: at Indiana, at New Orleans

Mavericks’ remaining games: vs. Toronto, at Minnesota

Blazers’ remaining games: at Phoenix, vs. Denver

The Warriors don’t have eighth place in their possession just yet. At 37-33, Golden State is a ½-game ahead of 36-33 Memphis. It could come down to the final game of the season when the Warriors and Grizzlies play on Sunday with the winner owning the tiebreaker.

Warriors’ remaining games: vs. New Orleans, vs. Memphis

Grizzlies’ remaining games: vs. Sacramento, vs. Sacramento, at Golden State

San Antonio will end up in 10th place as long as it wins one of its three final games. The Spurs can’t move up even if they win out and Memphis loses out because they would share the same record and the Grizzlies own the head-to-head tiebreaker.

However, if San Antonio loses its final three games, and Sacramento wins its final three games, the Kings would make the play-in game. Both teams have a difficult schedule. If Sacramento and San Antonio finish with the same record, the Spurs get in based on a 2-1 record against the Kings this season. Though New Orleans could finish with the same record as Sacramento and San Antonio, the Spurs have the tiebreaker. New Orleans can’t make the play-in game in any circumstance.

Spurs’ remaining games: at New York Knicks, vs. Phoenix, vs. Phoenix

Kings’ remaining games: at Memphis, at Memphis, vs. Utah

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