NBA Playoff Picture 2021: Updated Play-in Standings, Postseason Races to Watch

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Bleacher Report 11 May, 2021 - 08:00am 11 views

When do NBA playoffs start?

When do the 2021 NBA Playoffs begin? The playoffs begin on May 22. Game 7 of the 2021 NBA Finals is scheduled for July 22, if necessary. SB NationNBA play-in tournament 2021: Rules, bracket, and schedule, explained

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

Congrats are due to the NBA's middle class.

This is your moment in the sun, courtesy of the polarizing-for-some play-in tournament.

The format, which began in last season's bubble, sends teams seeded seventh through 10th to a three-game tournament to settle the last two playoff spots in each conference. The Nos. 7 and 8 seeds open tournament play with the winner advancing to the postseason. The loser faces the winner of the 9-10 matchup with that game rewarding the final playoff berth.

With less than a week remaining on the 2020-21 schedule, there is still much to be determined with regards to the play-in participants. So, after updating the latest standings through Monday night's games, we'll spotlight two of the tightest races in the play-in field.

4. New York Knicks: 38-30 (+3)

6. Portland Trail Blazers: 40-29 (+1.5)

11. New Orleans Pelicans: 31-38 (-2.5)

The Charlotte Hornets, Indiana Pacers and Washington Wizards are all simultaneously in the fight of their lives and breathing relatively easy. Such is life in the funky world of the play-in tournament.

The relative comfort comes from knowing they're all likely to snag a seat at the play-in table. It would take quite the collapse for any to fall beneath the Chicago Bulls, who needed a three-game winning streak just to come within 2.5 games of the 10th-seeded Wizards. Perhaps the Bulls can keep this up, but maybe they'll pull the plug yet in hopes of increasing their draft lottery odds.

Either way, the Hornets, Pacers and Wizards seem like they'll head to the small dance, but their order upon arrival is still being decided. Only 1.5 games separate these teams, and they're all down to their final handful of games. Charlotte and Indiana each has four remaining, while Washington is down to its final three.

The Hornets are in the driver's seat, but they also face the toughest remaining slate, per Tankathon. They'll host the Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Clippers before closing with a road back-to-back against the New York Knicks and Wizards.

The Pacers are up next with three home games awaiting them against the Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers. Survive that stretch, though, and they'll close with a road stop against the already eliminated Toronto Raptors.

The Wizards will play their second consecutive road game against the Atlanta Hawks, who squeaked out a one-point win over Washington on Monday. Then, Washington gets the Cleveland Cavaliers and Hornets at home.

Please excuse the popping sound you might be hearing. We're just getting our popcorn ready for this final sprint.

Never before has the sixth seed looked so inviting.

While a first-round fight with the Clippers or Nuggets hardly sounds enjoyable, it sure beats the alternative. Miss out on the sixth seed that would set up one of those matchups, and you've got a one-way ticket to the play-in tournament, where playoff dreams can be dashed in a matter of 96 minutes.

That's the reality facing the Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Lakers, who are in a heated race for the West's No. 6 spot. Portland has tight-roped its way there for now behind an MVP-caliber effort from Damian Lillard, who has feverishly worked to help the Blazers overcome injuries to CJ McCollum, Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins.

It's a different story for L.A., as the defending champs wouldn't have dreamed of being in this position just a few months back. On Feb. 12, the Lakers were an absurd 21-6. On March 18, they held a 28-13 mark. But injuries to both Anthony Davis and LeBron James derailed the mighty Purple and Gold, who are sputtering through a 3-8 skid that has dropped their record to 38-30 and their seed line to the dreaded No. 7.

James previously lambasted the tournament, telling reporters, "Whoever came up with that s--t needs to be fired." That sentiment is surely echoing through Laker Land right about now.

If there's a consolation, though, it's that the Lakers close with the softer schedule of the two. After hosting the New York Knicks and Houston Rockets, they'll finish with road tilts against the Indiana Pacers and New Orleans Pelicans. The Blazers, meanwhile, still have road stops against the Utah Jazz and Phoenix Suns before closing with a home game against the Nuggets.

As an impartial observer, this should be fun to watch.

Read full article at Bleacher Report

Everything you need to know about the NBA play-in tournament

Yahoo Sports 11 May, 2021 - 01:00pm

Dan Wetzel, Pat Forde, Pete Thamel

The play-in tournament runs from May 18-21, beginning two days after the regular season ends.

The seventh-place team in both conferences hosts the eighth-place team. The winner advances as the seventh seed to face the No. 2 seed in the first round of the playoffs, which are scheduled to begin May 22.

The ninth-place team in both conferences hosts the 10th-place team. The loser of that game is eliminated.

The loser of the 7-8 game then hosts the winner of the 9-10 game to determine the No. 8 seed.

Seeding top to bottom in both conferences is still to be determined in the final week of the regular season. The races in each conference for fifth and sixth place — the final two guaranteed playoff spots — should be wild. On the bright side, no team is at real risk of falling out of the tournament completely, meaning the ninth- and 10th-place teams are all but guaranteed more meaningful basketball, barring a massive collapse.

5. Atlanta Hawks (37-31)

6. Miami Heat (37-31)

7. Boston Celtics (35-33)

8. Charlotte Hornets (33-35)

9. Washington Wizards (32-36)

10. Indiana Pacers (31-36)

5. Dallas Mavericks (40-28)

6. Portland Trail Blazers (39-29)

7. Los Angeles Lakers (38-30)

8. Golden State Warriors (35-33)

9. Memphis Grizzlies (34-33)

10. San Antonio Spurs (32-35)

The same order of tiebreakers that have always applied to playoff seeds are still relevant to the tournament.

3. Division win percentage (if same division)

5. Intra-conference win percentage against playoff teams

They do! The league no longer guarantees home playoff series to division winners, but it did not abandon division records as a form of seeding tiebreakers. Only two races matter as it relates to the tournament.

The Mavericks will win a rather sorry Southwest Division, which would give them a tiebreaker in the rare instance they finish the season with the same record as both the division also-ran Blazers and Lakers. That could mean the difference between a fifth seed and a play-in tournament spot in the Western Conference.

In the East, the Southeast Division title comes down to Atlanta and Miami. The Hawks won the season series and will win the division in the event the Heat own an identical record. If a third team finishes with the same record, Atlanta owns the tiebreaker — potentially the difference between a playoff seed or play-in bid.

Teams only played their intra-conference rivals three times this season instead of the customary four, which simplifies the two-team tiebreaking process. Relevant head-to-head records for the play-in are as follows:

• Miami won its season series with Atlanta, 2-1.

• Atlanta won its season series with Boston, 2-1.

• The season series between Boston and Miami is tied, 1-1. The Celtics host the Heat on Tuesday.

• Boston won its season series with Charlotte, 2-1.

• Charlotte won its season series with Indiana, 2-1, and Washington, 2-1.

• Washington won its season series with Indiana, 3-0.

• Dallas won its season series with the Lakers, 2-1.

• Portland won its season series with Dallas, 2-1.

• Portland won its season series with the Lakers, 2-1.

• The season series between Memphis and Golden State is tied, 1-1. The Warriors host the Grizzlies on May 16.

• Golden State won its season series with San Antonio, 2-1.

• Memphis won its season series with San Antonio, 2-1.

Easy: the Lakers and Warriors. There is a real chance Golden State sensation Stephen Curry could meet LeBron James and the defending champions with playoff stakes on the line in a one-game showdown — maybe even a loser-goes-home scenario. It has been three years since Curry and James met in their fourth consecutive Finals. That matchup had grown tired by 2018, if only because a Warriors win felt inevitable, but now that Curry and Draymond Green would be considered underdogs, a rivalry is ready to be renewed.

If all teams were created equal in a neutral environment, the seventh- and eighth-place teams would each have a 50% chance of making the playoffs. The ninth- and 10th-place teams would both have a 25% shot.

Because teams are not filling arenas during the coronavirus pandemic, it is unclear how big home-court advantage will be in the play-in tournament. Traditionally, home teams in the NBA have won roughly 57% of regular-season games. Over the course of this season, that number dipped to 53%. Again, if all teams were equal, using this year's home/road figure, the 10th-place team's playoff probability would fall to about 22%.

Only, all teams are not created equal. Say the Lakers were to host the Spurs in a win-or-go-home game. With a healthy James and Anthony Davis, the defending champions might win eight or nine times out of 10.

The Wizards are the flip-side to that argument. They were ravaged by COVID-19 early in the season. Russell Westbrook took months to get himself right after a 2019-20 campaign bookended by injury and to integrate himself into Washington's roster. The Wizards are 1-8 without Beal in the lineup. Right away they are an above-.500 team with the NBA's leading scorer on the court — on par with any potential play-in opponent.

Since Beal returned from a hip injury on April 7, when Westbrook was weeks into his resurgence, the Wizards are 15-4. One of those losses came as Beal rested the second night of a back-to-back. That run also coincides with the addition of a healthy Daniel Gafford, the underrated 22-year-old rim-running center Washington acquired at the trade deadline. This is a whole different team than it was even two months ago.

No play-in team is going to feel better than a coin flip facing Beal and Westbrook in a must-win game.

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Nets’ playoff seeding isn’t only thing that matters

New York Post 10 May, 2021 - 08:19pm

By Ryan Dunleavy

May 10, 2021 | 9:19pm | Updated May 10, 2021 | 9:45pm

For the Nets, playoff seeding sits on the end of a metaphorical seesaw. Health is on the other.

There’s a definite off-balance tilt, but not like when an elephant sinks to the ground and sends a mouse hurtling toward the sky.

“I think the No. 1 thought and priority as a staff is health over seeding,” coach Steve Nash said Monday entering the final week of the regular season. “But that doesn’t mean we’re 1,000 percent in on health over seeding.”

The 76ers will clinch the top seed in the Eastern Conference with any combination of their own wins in their final four games plus Nets losses equaling two. The Nets entered Monday with a half-game lead over the Bucks to determine the second and third seeds.

But the Nets have two sets of back-to-back games beginning Tuesday at the Bulls, and Nash has held Kevin Durant out of back-to-backs since he returned from a hamstring strain. Blake Griffin, who manages a surgically repaired left knee, has played in one back-to-back since joining the Nets. If James Harden returns this week from a hamstring strain, it’s difficult to foresee risking a setback by playing him two nights in a row.

“It’s just a matter of how these games play out, how our team responds, how guys look and feel, and also frankly what our guys want to do,” Nash said. “What makes them feel confident? What [do] they need out of these last games? So there’s a lot of factors.”

The difference in seeding means two things: A weaker first-round opponent — the No. 3 seed likely draws either the Hawks or Heat while the No. 2 seed faces a survivor of the play-in tournament — and Game 7 home-court advantage if the Nets and Bucks meet in the second round. Either scenario represents a big change for the Nets, who entered the playoffs as the No. 6 and No. 7 seeds the last two seasons, respectively.

“I don’t think it affects the preparation, but I do think it probably affects the overall mindset,” forward Joe Harris said. “Not that it’s easier when you’re a lower seed, but you definitely have less to lose when you’re going into some of these games. … Trying to finish these last four games out the right way. Then you start preparing for whoever you’re going to be playing against come playoff time.”

How were the Nets feeling after an ill-timed season-long four-game losing streak? Forward Jeff Green didn’t mince words when he described the fuel for Saturday’s comeback against the short-handed Nuggets.

“I think we got tired of feeling embarrassed by the way we were playing,” Green said, “and we kind of just got it together and came out in the second half and played harder.”

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