With the NBA playoffs just days away, the second play-in tournament is taking place as the 7th–10th seeds compete to stay alive and make the playoffs. In the Eastern Conference, the Brooklyn Nets finished as the seventh seed while the Cleveland Cavaliers finished eighth. The Atlanta Hawks finished ninth and the Charlotte Hornets finished tenth. In the Western Conference, the Minnesota Timberwolves finished seventh with the Los Angeles Clippers in eighth. The New Orleans Pelicans and San Antonio Spurs finished in ninth and tenth.
On Tuesday night, the Brooklyn Nets hosted the Cavaliers in the wake of the events that took place hours earlier. The Nets came out strong, outscoring the Cavs 40-20 in the first quarter, but only dropped 17 points in the second quarter. Kyrie Irving had a dominant first half for the Nets, going 9/9 and scoring 20 points. Irving would finish with 34 points, while Kevin Durant added another 25. Bruce Brown and Andre Drummond stepped up, dropping an additional 18 and 16 points respectively. On Cleveland’s side, Darius Garland proved why he is a [must-see guard, matching Irving’s 34 points while the Cavs brought the score to within six with under a minute left. While the Cavaliers were not able to make the full comeback against the Nets, they will have one more chance to clinch a playoff seed against the Hawks on Friday night. For Brooklyn, they will have a first-round rematch of last year with the seedings turned around. Heading into the matchup, both Brooklyn and Boston are missing players who could make a difference on the defensive end. For the Nets, Ben Simmons has not played this season. For the Celtics, Robert Williams III has missed the last few weeks due to a knee injury. Rumors say Simmons could make a return to the court during the series, while the Celtics expect to be without Williams through the first round. The eventual winner of the series will face the winner of the Milwaukee Bucks v Chicago Bulls matchup.
In the second game on Tuesday, the Wolves hosted the Los Angeles Clippers to determine the seventh seed in the West. The crowd in the Target Center was electric as they watched their team reach the playoffs for the first time since 2018. The Clippers maintained a lead for the majority of the first half, but it was close by halftime. For the Wolves, most of the scoring came from Anthony Edwards and D’Angelo Russell as Karl-Anthony Towns struggled to shoot and fouled out early in the fourth quarter. For the Clippers, Paul George led all scorers with 34 points while Reggie Jackson and Norman Powell were the important contributors for Los Angeles. In the last nine minutes of the game, the fouling out of KAT and multiple defensive breakdowns by the Clippers would allow for the Wolves to come back and defeat Los Angeles. The Wolves will now meet the second seed Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the playoffs, while the Clippers will have one more chance to clinch a playoff spot against the Pelicans. The Wolves will face tough competition in Memphis, who are expected to have Ja Morant back.
On Wednesday night, the Hawks had a dominating performance against the Hornets. Both teams started slowly with Trae Young and LaMelo Ball getting off to bad starts. Scoring would pick up in the first half with the Hornets keeping the game within eight points. That all changed in the third quarter when the Hawks blew out the Hornets, outscoring them 42-24. Starting the final quarter down by almost 30 points, Charlotte was not able to close the gap. While LaMelo Ball and Terry Rozier had solid performances Wednesday night, Miles Bridges struggled and was eventually ejected halfway through the fourth quarter. Charlotte would end up losing in the play-in for the second year in a row, this time by 29 points. For Atlanta, Friday could be their last game of the season as they face the Cavaliers. Jarrett Allen has not been ruled out for Friday’s game and would have a significant impact if he does play. The Hawks are without John Collins, but with Danilo Gallinari and De’Andre Hunter stepping up Wednesday, they may be able to make up for his absence.
In the West, the 9 v 10 matchup saw the Pelicans outlast the Spurs in what might be Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich’s last game. The Pelicans and Spurs played a close game in the first quarter and the Pelicans were able to widen the gap in the second thanks to CJ McCollum dropping 14 points in the quarter. The Pelicans were able to increase the gap to 17 by the end of the third quarter, but the Spurs were able to get the deficit under 10 with less than two minutes left in the game. The Spurs were unable to complete the comeback, giving the Pelicans the victory over San Antonio. McCollum was not the only play to show out for New Orleans as Brandon Ingram finished with 27 and Jonas Valanciunas finished with 22 points. New Orleans will go on to play the Clippers Friday night in what is sure to be an exciting matchup.