Updated: Sep 6
NBA Playoff Race
Written By: Andrew Felton
Playoff Bracket / www.sportingnews.com
With the NBA play-offs starting on May 22nd, a new format was added this year, creating a ‘play-in’ tournament for teams who finish 7th-10th in each conference, with the top six making the playoffs. The play-in tournament will start on May 18th and take place over three days. This will work by the 9th seeded team hosting the 10th seeded team and the 7th seeded team hosting the 8th. The winner of the 9th vs 10th seed will play the loser of the 7th vs 8th seed to see who will clinch the last play-off place, with the winner of the 7th vs 8th seed going straight through, confused? very much so. The idea of this is to stop teams tanking games in the home stretch to gain a better draft pick.
Eliminated from Play-offs
There are currently six NBA teams who are out of the play-off picture. Starting with the Eastern Conference, teams include the Orlando Magic, who after reaching the play-offs last year will be very disappointed with this year's performance. The Cleveland Cavaliers, who have not reached the same heights as previous years, since the departure of Kyrie Irving and Lebron James. Finally, the Detroit Pistons who will be looking to rebuild in the next few seasons.
From the Western Conference, Oklahoma City Thunder have been eliminated, along with the Minnesota Timberwolves who have had a very disappointing season due to injuries but will look to improve and be a play-off team next season, led by Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards. Then the final team, Houston Rockets, who have been the worst team in the NBA with only 16 wins, mainly due to losing their franchise player James Harden and not replacing him with the quality that they needed.
Play-in tournament spots
There are currently four teams sat outside the play-in tournament places, still with a chance. In the Eastern Conference the Chicago Bulls are 2 wins off 10th and the Raptors, who are 3 wins away. Currently sat in 10th are the Indiana Pacers who should be safe, with the Washington Wizards looking to try and move up a place to 8th before the end of the season, with Russell Westbrook currently playing at an MVP level. The Charlotte Hornets who have their rookie revelation Lamelo Ball back from injury, looking to stay within the play-in tournament spots and push for the rookie of the year award. Finally, the Boston Celtics who are desperate for the Heat to slip up, so they can take the last spot in the play-offs, with their stars Tatum and Brown looking to make a deep play-off run.
In the Western conference the New Orleans Pelicans look to have missed out on the play-offs for another year and with the Sacramento Kings in 12th the play-in tournament spots look just out of reach. The San Antonio Spurs look set to keep the 10th spot. In 9th we have the Memphis Grizzlies with Ja Morant hoping to work wonders and carry them into the play-offs. Sitting in 8th is the Golden State Warriors and in 7th are the Los Angeles Lakers. With Steph Curry putting up superhero numbers, week in week out and the Lakers suffering multiple injuries throughout the season, they will be looking to defend their championship and not lose this play-in tournament match, which will be one not to miss.
Three teams in the Eastern Conference have already clinched a play-off place with the Philadelphia 76ers currently the No.1 seed, as their superstar and MVP candidate Joel Embiid leads the charge to win a championship. The No.2 seed is this season’s superstar team the Brooklyn Nets. Having acquired James Harden to join Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, is there a team that will be able to defeat the Nets, or is it just a matter of going through the motions until they are crowned NBA champions? The Milwaukee Bucks, led by their star Giannis Antetokounmpo, have also clinched a play-off spot with the two-time MVP looking to finally win an NBA championship. The other three teams currently in contention are the New York Knicks who have probably been the surprise package this season, playing fantastic basketball, thanks to players like Julius Randle. Atlanta Hawks, led by Trae Young, sitting in 5th, one win ahead of last year’s finalists Miami Heat, who will look to go one better and win the championship with their stars Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo.
The Western Conference has four places already clinched by the Utah Jazz, looking to be the No.1 seed, currently boasting the best record in the NBA. No.2 is the Phoenix Suns who were very unlucky not to have made the play-offs last year and will look to stamp their authority in the play-offs against most likely the winner of the play-in tournament game. The Los Angeles Clippers are the third team to have clinched a play-off spot, after losing early in the play-offs last year thanks to some Luka magic, the Clippers will be looking for redemption. The final team to have clinched a play-off place are the Denver Nuggets who currently have the front runner in the MVP race Nikola Jokic, with the last two places being battled out by the Dallas Mavericks and Portland Trailblazers, both on 39 wins and want to avoid dropping into the play-in tournament spots, with their lead men Luka Doncic and Damien Lillard carrying their teams into a play-off spot.