With the addition of play-in games to the 2021 NBA playoffs, the seeding puzzle is wilder – and more important – than ever, as nearly every game on the track has a significant post-season impact.
Play-in matchups after Sunday’s games
Play-in games will take place May 18-21
• How the play-in tournament works
• Current NBA rankings
Game 1: No. 8 Charlotte at No. 7 Boston – Winner is No. 7 in the playoffs
Game 2: No. 10 Indiana at No. 9 Washington – Winner continues in play-in; Loser is eliminated
Game 3: Indiana / Washington winner at Boston / Charlotte loser – winner is number 8 in the playoffs
Game 1: No. 8 Golden State at No. 7 Los Angeles Lakers – Winner is No. 7 seed in playoffs
Game 2: No. 10 San Antonio at No. 9 Memphis – Winner Continues Play-In; Loser is eliminated
Game 3: Memphis / San Antonio Winner at Lakers / Golden State Loser – Winner is number 8 in the playoffs
Here’s a breakdown of all of Sunday’s major games and what the results mean for the sowing:
The Celtics hosted the Miami Heat Sunday afternoon in a game that would go a long way in determining which of these two teams in the Eastern Conference playoff picture would make the 4-5 series and which would head towards an appearance in the Series would go to the NBA’s first play-in tournament.
It didn’t take long to figure out which direction things were going to go.
The Heat had an early double-digit lead and never looked back. He led wire-to-wire in a 130-124 win at TD Garden. Miami, which led by 26 points at halftime, are now fifth in the east with the Atlanta Hawks. The Heat is two games ahead of the Celtics in seventh place and has four games to go.
Miami and Boston will again play in a really massive game at TD Garden on Tuesday night. The winner gets the tiebreaker – and if Miami wins, it practically guarantees that Boston will take part in the play-in tournament.
If Boston lost on Tuesday, both Miami and Atlanta would own the tiebreaker and have at least two games to play in the losing column with three, so the New York Knicks, Boston’s opponents in the regular season finale, would only collapse completely a week later on Sunday as a possible way out of the play-in for the Celtics.
According to ESPN’s Basketball Power Index, Sunday’s loss in Boston had an 81 percent chance of participating in the play-in tournament.
However, the race for places 4-6 in the east is complex. New York will play one game ahead of Miami and Atlanta in the east after the Knicks defeated the Clippers on Sunday. And the tiebreaker scenarios only add to the complication. New York has the tiebreaker lead over Atlanta, Atlanta has the tiebreaker over Miami, and Miami has the tiebreaker over New York.
And while the immediate concern of all three teams is avoiding the warming up, they’d also like to get into a 4-5 streak and avoid having to play either the Milwaukee Bucks or the Brooklyn Nets in the first round – whichever contributing to this is the stakes for a frenetic finale in the last days of the regular season. – Tim Bontemps
Every game is big for the Lakers right now, but getting one you might not have expected is massive. Anthony Davis’s performance against the Suns on Sunday – 42 points on 13-27 shoot-outs, 12 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 blocks and 3 steals – keeps the Lakers in the mix to stay out of the play-in game.
– NBA (@NBA) May 10, 2021
The Lakers remain one game behind the Blazers in the losing column, an achievable hurdle with four games remaining, three of which are against teams under 500. The scenarios are pretty straightforward for LA: The Blazers are still in control of their own destiny and have to go 4-0 or 3-1 to secure the 6-seed. If Portland goes 2-2, the Lakers will have to finish 4-0. If Portland goes 1-3 the Lakers must finish 3-1. If Portland goes 1-3 the Lakers must finish 2-2.
So it’s uphill, but the hill looked almost too steep to play against one of the best in the west on Sunday. There is still reason to believe. – Royce Young
The San Antonio Spurs are leaving the door open for the pelicans to sneak into the play-in tournament, and Sunday’s win over the Hornets gives the pelicans the much-needed boost. New Orleans is now only 1½ behind the Spurs and has four games to play. It helps that San Antonio’s last five games are tough (against Milwaukee, in Brooklyn, in New York, against Phoenix, and against Phoenix), but New Orleans is running out of time – and it doesn’t help that Zion Williamson is having it a broken left ring finger.
The defeat brings Charlotte two games back from the Celtics for the seventh seed and the Hornets are only one game to play before the Wizards with four. Charlotte and Washington meet on the last day of the regular season, but the Hornets have had a difficult run in their three previous games, with home games against Denver and the Clippers before a street game against the Knicks. – Andrew Lopez
Nickeil Alexander-Walker shoots a shot from across half the pitch and manages to hit the buzzer of the first quarter.
The Mavericks tightened their grip on fifth place in the Western Conference by defeating the Cavaliers.
Dallas, who have won 10 of their last 12 games to improve to 40-28, are one game ahead of the Portland Trail Blazers, with four remaining on the regular season schedule. Portland owns the tiebreaker between the teams.
The magic number of Mavs to avoid the play-in tournament is two (Dallas wins and Lakers loses together). – – Tim MacMahon
No change to the seeds of this game. Derrick Rose had 25 points in the win, 19 of them in the first half.
Julius Randle moves on to Derrick Rose, who goes straight to the bucket to lie down and commit the foul.