With the addition of play-in games to the 2021 NBA playoffs, the seeding puzzle is wilder – and more important – than ever, as almost every game on the track has a significant post-season impact.
Play-in matchups after Wednesday’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 Washington at No. 9 Indiana – Winner continues in play-in; Loser is eliminated
Game 3: Washington / Indiana 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
Teams that won on Wednesday
Playoff seats: Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets, Milwaukee Bucks, Miami Heat, Atlanta Hawks, and New York Knicks
Closing places (seeds 7-10): Boston Celtics, Charlotte Hornets, Indiana Pacers
Playoff spots: Utah Jazz, Phoenix Suns, LA Clippers, and Denver Nuggets
Play-in spots: Golden State Warriors, Memphis Grizzlies
Here’s a breakdown of Wednesday’s main games and what the results mean for the sowing:
The Atlanta Hawks took another step towards home advantage in the first round of the playoffs with a fourth quarter comeback to beat the Washington Wizards.
The win of Atlanta over Washington, which would have earned a place in the play-in tournament with a win of its own, officially secured the Hawks a play-off spot for the first time since 2017. More importantly, Atlanta is in the driver’s seat to get the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
All Atlanta has to do is win two home games against two of the league’s worst teams – the Orlando Magic Thursday and the Houston Rockets Sunday – to get that fourth seed, as those wins would get the Southeast Division title.
On the flip side, Washington will have to wait to try to finish last in the play-in tournament for Toronto to win against Chicago on Thursday or its home game against Cleveland on Friday. The Wizards are a game behind the Indiana Pacers and Charlotte Hornets in the battle for eighth place in the East – and have two chances to win a game to reach the playoff field. Washington owns the tiebreaker over Indiana, but not against Charlotte.
If all three teams tie, Charlotte – who owns the tiebreaker through both Indiana and Washington – would be eighth, while the Wizards would be ninth and the Pacers tenth. Charlotte and Washington play against each other on the last day of the season, a game that could decide who gets the eighth seed in the east. – – Tim Bontemps
The Boston Celtics are officially on their way to the play-in tournament.
There was little chance that Boston could escape this fate after two home defeats to the Miami Heat, but against the unfortunate Cleveland Cavaliers – with Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown and Robert Williams, all injured – Boston officially went to play – Sent in. The Celtics need another win or another loss for the Hornets and Pacers to officially get the seventh seed in the east.
Boston owns the tiebreakers against Charlotte, Indiana and the Wizards, the three teams among them in the standings.
Boston’s defeat secured a playoff spot for the New York Knicks, who are in the postseason for the first time since the 2013 Eastern Conference semifinals.
CODY, WE DID IT.
– NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) May 13, 2021
Ironically, the more momentous outcome of this game was that Cleveland achieved a rare victory. The Cavaliers, who lost 4:21 in their last 25 games on Wednesday and lost 11 straight games since April 21, went from a three-way tie with 21 wins over Oklahoma City Thunder and Orlando Magic. The third-longest wins in the NBA in conjunction with the Minnesota Timberwolves for the fifth worst overall win in the league.
Cleveland has had the fifth election in the draft in the past two years, and with the win on Wednesday saw a significant decrease in the lottery odds. – – Bontemps
James Harden throws an overhead bounce pass between four Spurs defenders at a grazing Jeff Green for an easy two-handed dunk in transition.
Whether it dazzles the crowd with cross-court bounce passes or flutters after a 4-point game, one thing is certain: The nets have proven to be winners on the pitch with James Harden. Rather than reacting to a double-digit late season win against a likely play-in team like the Spurs (San Antonio missed the chance to reach number 10 in the west), look at the difference in the totals when Harden in This season’s on the court: With Harden, Brooklyn is now 28-7. Without him they are 11-11.
In his first game in more than a month, Harden finished with 18 points, 7 rebounds and 11 assists in 26 minutes. While the nets are not yet in full strength (Kyrie Irving missed Wednesday’s game with a facial injury), they can take comfort in the numbers that suggest Brooklyn is fine – as long as they have a healthy harden. – – Malika Andrews
On the verge of disaster, the Lakers barely kept their hopes alive to avoid the box-office round with a narrow win over the sad rockets. Kyle Kuzma had 6.9 seconds left, but the Lakers are mathematically still alive to finish in the top six even if their chances of catching Portland or Dallas are slim. The Lakers must win both remaining games – Indiana and New Orleans – and hope that both Blazers and Mavs finish 2-0.
Kyle Kuzma uses a Eurostep to create a tough starting line-up while the Lakers take a 124-122 win over the Rockets.
Perhaps more important, however, is the Lakers’ focus on health. Anthony Davis was a scratch off against the Rockets – hence the game closer than expected – and LeBron James is aiming for a return this week. Working out the play-in would be ideal for the Lakers, but it’s an outcome that is becoming less and less likely. So if they focus on just being ready for the brief turnaround, that could become a priority.
And if you’re looking for an edge to play-in, you’ll likely face the Clippers in the opening round if you’re the 6-seed. Not that the suns or (possibly) the jazz are some kind of cake plaster, but the Lakers as opponents of the opening round are not the reward a 1- or 2-seed expects after working all season to climb the standings . – – Royce Young
After spending the last month battling their way out of a play-in spot, the Blazers are on the verge of securing a top six spot in the postseason with a strong win on the Utah streets.
With their final run, the Blazers actually have control of their offering for the West’s 5-Seed. They corrected themselves after falling five games and won nine out of ten to take control of fifth place with two games to go (in Phoenix, Denver). And playing in a 4-5 match against the Nuggets probably sounds a lot more appealing than a 3-6 streak against the Clippers.
Damian Lillard confidently drills a deep 3-pointer.
Meanwhile, jazz still has a lot to do to imprison the top seed in the West. The 2-0 win would guarantee first place, and Utah’s remaining games are against Thunder and Kings. The Jazz are just a game on the suns for the 1-Seed and don’t have a tiebreaker with Phoenix. The Suns have three games left – once against Portland and twice against the Spurs.
And it’s pretty obvious why having the best seed in the west may be as important as it ever was. Yes, you get a home place and yes, you get boastful rights. But you may not have to play the Lakers as a 7-seed either, and as an added bonus, you will likely be on the other side of the bracket from the Clippers as well. – – Young
The win puts Dallas back on track as Portland and the Lakers continue to win in a three-way battle to see who stays out of the play-in tournament and who deserves fifth and sixth seed. If all three teams are tied overall, Dallas would be number 5 due to the Southwest Division win. If the Mavericks only tie with the Blazers, Portland can put their leg up thanks to the head-to-head tiebreaker even though the Mavs hold the tiebreaker over the Lakers.
Luka Doncic connects with Kristaps Porzingis at the beginning of the third quarter to close an alley.
Dallas was also able to get Kristaps Porzingis back into rotation after missing seven games in a row. Porzingis had 19 points and five rebounds on his return in 22 minutes.
On the other side of the floor, the pelicans were excluded from the playoff competition with the loss. – – Andrew Lopez