Playoffs Or Play In – How Did Your NBA Team Perform This Season?
The NBA Regular Season has now come to an end and we know the five teams in each of the two conferences that have been eliminated. That leaves a total of 20 teams, ten from each conference, battling it out through the Playoffs (if they managed to finish in the top six), or facing the challenge of the new and controversial Play In tournament.
Brought in by the NBA this year to expand the playoffs to include more teams, instead of the top eight seeds in each division qualifying for the playoffs directly, only the top six now do. The teams ranked 7th to 10th enter the Play In tournament.
In this tournament the 7th and 8th ranked teams face off in a single game to determine the 7th seed, while the 9th and 10th seeds clash, with the winner going on to face the loser of the 7th v 8th seed game to decide who is the eighth seed in the playoffs.
The play in is controversial and there have been a number of fans and players, including LeBron James, that have criticised the new system, although it has expanded the playoffs to give two more teams a chance at post-season glory.
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Let’s now recap how both Conferences shaped up after the Regular Season with plenty of shocks across both, as well as a few surprises as teams did better, or worse, than expected over the course of the 72-game regular season.
Eastern Conference Review
The Milwaukee Bucks won this division last year and they, along with the Brooklyn Nets were expected to be the dominant forces in this division. Those predictions proved somewhat accurate, with the two teams finishing as second (Nets) and third seeds (Bucks) in the Eastern Conference.
However, they were pipped to the number 1 seed by the Philadelphia 76ers who led by Ben Simmonds and Joel Embiid were one of the surprise packages of the season and deservedly landed that top seed spot.
Those three teams finished well ahead of the New York Knicks, Atlanta Hawks and Miami Heat in the final three playoff spots in the division. The Boston Celtics had been in the top six for much of the season, but a poor run of form saw them drop into the play in.
There they will face the free scoring Washington Wizards in the seventh seed spot game, while the loser of that will face the winner of the Indiana Pacers or Charlotte Hornets game in the battle for the eighth seed spot.
Given the Celtic’s drop off in form, I have no confidence they can bounce back from that to beat the Wizards, whose form is better in recent times and I would back the Pacers to beat the Hornets in the other game, and I think the Pacers will also get the better of the Celtics in the final play in game to clinch that last playoff berth.
- Philadelphia 76ers (1) v Number 8 Seed from Play In
- Brooklyn Nets (2) v Number 7 Seed from Play In
- Milwaukee Bucks (3) v Miami Heat (6)
- New York Knicks (4) v Atlanta Hawks (5)
- Match 1 – Boston Celtics (7) V Washington Wizards (8) – Winner becomes 7th Seed, Loser Goes into 8th Seed Game
- Match 2 – Indiana Pacers (9) v Charlotte Hornets (10) – Winner Goes into 8th Seed Game, Loser Eliminated
- Match 3 – Loser of Match 1 v Winner of Match 2 – Winner Becomes 8th Seed, Loser Eliminated
Western Conference Review
At the start of the season, it looked like it would be a battle between the two Los Angeles teams, the Clippers and the Lakers for top spot in the West, but in the end, only the Clippers managed to secure a playoff spot as the fourth seed, while the Lakers, on the back of injuries to key players, only managed to secure a Play In spot.
The team of the season in the West, and indeed in the NBA as a whole, were the Utah Jazz who finished with the best record in the NBA of 52 wins and just 20 defeats. That saw them earn the top seed spot ahead of the Phoenix Suns who were just one win behind. They finished comfortably ahead of the Denver Nuggets in third, with the Clippers ranked just behind them.
The Lakers finished with the same 42-30 record as the Mavericks and Trail Blazers, but their poorer head to head record against both teams ensured that they finished in seventh spot.
That sets up an intriguing Play In clash between the Lakers and Golden State Warriors, who have point-scoring machine Steph Curry in their ranks. With the Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs rounding out the Play In, the odds look good for the Lakers and Warriors to clinch the final two seed spots in these one-off games, especially with both being the form teams in the west at the moment.
- Utah Jazz (1) v Number 8 Seed from Play In
- Phoenix Suns (2) v Number 7 Seed from Play In
- Denver Nuggets (3) v Portland Trail Blazers (6)
- Los Angeles Clippers (4) v Dallas Mavericks (5)
- Match 4 – Los Angeles Lakers (7) V Golden State Warriors (8) – Winner becomes 7th Seed, Loser Goes into 8th Seed Game
- Match 5 – Memphis Grizzlies (9) v San Antonio Spurs (10) – Winner Goes into 8th Seed Game, Loser Eliminated
- Match 6 – Loser of Match 4 v Winner of Match 5 – Winner Becomes 8th Seed, Loser Eliminated
The Play In starts tonight (Tuesday 18th May) and will be played to a completion on Saturday 22nd May, after which we will know the identity of the 7th and 8th seed in each conference that clinch the final playoff positions.
Who Are The Best Teams To Back For The Play In Games?
- Charlotte Hornets v Indiana Pacers – Pacers (4/6)
- Washington Wizards v Boston Celtics – Wizards (11/10)
- San Antonio Spurs v Memphis Grizzlies – Grizzlies (10/17)
- Golden State Warriors v Los Angeles Lakers – Warriors (17/10)
My predictions are for the Warriors and Wizards to clinch the seventh seed spots and in the final games in the Play In, for the Lakers and Pacers to clinch the eighth seed spot.
The Playoffs are scheduled to begin on Sunday 23rd May.