The NBA play-in tournament is off to a dramatic start
The GIST: And they’re off! The dramatic NBA play-in tournament more than delivered with last night’s tip-off, giving way to tonight’s win-or-go-home showdowns. Nothing like high stakes hoops.
How it works: First, a quick refresher on the play-in format. While the top six teams in each conference — Eastern Conference (EC) and Western Conference (WC) — already punched their playoff tickets, the tourney gives the seventh- through tenth-placed squads a chance to earn a spot.
- The winners of last night’s No. 7 vs. No. 8 games clinched the No. 7 seed in their conference, but the losers will face the winners of tonight’s No. 9 vs. No. 10 matchups to decide the No. 8 spot. Living for the chaos.
Last night’s No. 7 vs. No. 8 games: The early game was a stunner, as Trae Young and the EC No. 8 Atlanta Hawks scorched the No. 7 Miami Heat 116–105, stealing the No. 7 seed and setting up a first-round date with the No. 2 Boston Celtics. Did not see that one coming, TBH.
- Then out West, the No. 7 LA Lakers took care of business against the shorthanded No. 8 Minnesota Timberwolves 108–102 in overtime. LeBron James and Co. get some much-needed rest while the TWolves will need to sort through their differences ahead of Friday’s must-win game.
Tonight’s No. 9 vs. No. 10 games: First up in this single-elimination doubleheader, the EC No. 9 Toronto Raptors host old friend DeMar DeRozan and the No. 10 Chicago Bulls at 7 p.m. ET. Chicago boasts the best road record in the league this season, but they’ll need to keep it squeaky clean against the Raps, who lead the NBA in steals. Expect a nail-biter.
- And schedule in a deep breath before the 9:30 p.m. ET meeting between the WC No. 9 New Orleans Pelicans and No. 10 Oklahoma City Thunder, because three of their four regular-season meetings were decided by four points or less.