More than just Lakers are jockeying for position in the final week of NBA regular season

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USA TODAY 10 May, 2021 - 02:59pm 11 views

What is the play in tournament NBA?

The play-in tournament is a new -- and hopefully exciting -- way for the league to determine the eight playoff teams from each conference. CBSSports.comNBA play-in tournament explained: What to know about league's playoff format change, and why it's so important

When is the NBA play in tournament?

When is it? The Play-In Tournament begins Tuesday, May 18 and concludes Friday, May 21. The playoffs will then continue as normal on May 22. The second half of the regular season will be followed by the 2021 NBA Play-In Tournament, May 18-21! Sky SportsNBA Play-In Tournament: Everything you need to know

3 best potential NBA play-in game matchups, ranked by watchability

ClutchPoints 10 May, 2021 - 07:44pm

The 2020-21 regular season is about to come to a close which means that the NBA Playoffs are already looming around the corner. However, the situation will be a bit different for the 7th to 10th seeds of both conferences as they will be pitted in a play-in tournament to rightfully secure a spot in the postseason.

Certainly, the proceedings will provide more exciting action as the play-in teams are expected to go all out in their bid for a playoff appearance. Here are the three best potential NBA play-in matchups, ranked based on watchability:

The depleted Golden State Warriors still found a way to make a late rally in their campaign despite missing a few key pieces as they are currently sitting in the eighth spot of the Western Conference with a 35-33 record. Meanwhile, the young Memphis Grizzlies are also not giving an inch as they are closely trailing behind with a 34-33 tally at the ninth seed.

As of the moment, this potential matchup can only happen in the event that the Warriors lose to the seventh-seeded Los Angeles Lakers while the Grizzlies win their elimination game against the No. 10 San Antonio Spurs in the NBA play-in proceedings.

Headlining this matchup for the Warriors is their main man in Stephen Curry who has emerged as a dark-horse candidate for the MVP award this season. He has been on a tear with averages of 31.9 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 5.7 assists through 60 games played. His scoring explosions have been lifting the Dubs to victories all season long and it won’t be surprising to see him put another impressive performance in hopes of securing a playoff spot for his team.

On the opposite end, sophomore star Ja Morant leads the Grizzlies with his averages of 19.3 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 7.3 assists in 59 appearances. In addition, the recent return of big man Jaren Jackson Jr. will be a key factor for the playoff hopes of Memphis as he is currently contributing 15.0 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks through eight games played.

NBA fans will surely be entertained as they get to watch two flashy point guards gut it out for their respective teams. Not to mention that both sides also missed out on the playoffs last season, thus the added motivation to secure the much-needed victory in the play-in tournament.

Despite being an NBA powerhouse in recent seasons, the Boston Celtics have surprisingly slowed down in their 2020-21 campaign as they currently hold a 35-33 record to settle for the seventh seed. Meanwhile, the Washington Wizards have seen a late resurgence as they managed to turn things around and get back on the right track to nab the ninth spot with a 32-36 slate.

With how things stand as of the moment, the matchup between the two teams can only happen if the Celtics lose to the eighth-seeded Charlotte Hornets while the Wizards successfully carve out a win against the Indiana Pacers who are currently sitting at the 10th spot.

Certainly, the high-performing duos from both teams will be the main attraction in this potential NBA play-in matchup. Jayson Tatum is currently averaging 26.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 4.4 assists while his fellow All-Star in Jaylen Brown is tallying 24.7 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 3.4 assists for the Celtics this season.

On the other hand, the Wizards also have a dynamic pairing of their own led by Bradley Beal who has emerged as one of the leading scorers in the NBA this season. The three-time All-Star is recording a career-best 31.4 points to go with 4.7 rebounds and 4.4 assists. His running mate in Russell Westbrook is also expected to show out as he is currently averaging a triple-double of 22.0 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 11.5 assists for the Wizards this season.

Poised to make an appearance in the play-in tournament, the Celtics are out to prove that they can still make noise in the Eastern Conference playoff picture despite their struggles while the Wizards are aiming to finally end a two-year absence in the postseason.

With the two St. Louis natives in Jayson Tatum and Bradley Beal headlining this matchup, both teams are expected to renew the Celtics-Wizards rivalry in a bid to secure an appearance in the playoffs.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the 2020-21 regular season would be the recent downfall of the Los Angeles Lakers due to the extended absences of both LeBron James and Anthony Davis owing to their respective injuries. From being one of the top teams in the Western Conference during the early stages of their campaign, the defending NBA champions have greatly plummeted as they are merely settling at the seventh spot with a 38-30 record.

On the other hand, the Warriors are situated at the opposite end of the stick as they weren’t even expected to be in the playoff picture in the first place. However, the heroics that Curry has shown all season long have successfully pushed the Dubs to sit at the eighth spot to nab a 35-33 record.

Basketball fans will be treated to another LBJ-Curry showdown in the play-in tournament if the two teams still find themselves owning their current positions at the seventh and eighth seeds by the end of the regular season.

Despite holding a dismal record as of late, nobody can dare count the Purple and Gold out of the picture. James, previously seen as an NBA MVP candidate before he had his long layoff, remains to be a force to be reckoned with as he is averaging 25.0 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 7.8 assists. Not to mention that his fellow All-Star in Davis has already returned back to action and is tallying 21.9 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks for the Lakers. Needless to say, the two stars should be fully healthy in order for Los Angeles to have a greater chance at securing their playoff seat.

Even with the overwhelming presence of both James and Davis, Curry has already proven that he can carry a team on his back due to his high-scoring performances all season long. Though it will definitely be a tough challenge to beat a healthy Lakers squad, the Warriors are expected to play with a chip on their shoulder as they seek to eliminate the champs and run away with an upset victory.

This matchup may not be anything close to the NBA Finals rivalry between the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers and the powerhouse Warriors squad from a few seasons ago. However, a showdown between LeBron James and Stephen Curry is always a sight to behold, especially in a pressure-filled situation with both their playoff lives on the line.

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