The NBA play-in game matchups are set.
The Los Angeles Lakers needed help from Denver on Sunday to avoid the play-in game, but didn’t get it. Though the Lakers defeated New Orleans 110-98, the Blazers beat the Nuggets 132-116, cementing the Lakers in seventh place in the Western Conference.
The Blazers stayed out of the play-in game format with the victory and are the No. 6 seed. Dallas, Portland and the Lakers all finished 42-30, but the Mavericks won the overall tiebreaker because they won the Southwest Division. The Blazers own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Lakers because of their 2-1 advantage in the regular season.
Now, the Lakers will play Golden State in the tantalizing seventh-place vs. eighth place play-in game with the winner grabbing the No. 7 seed and the loser needing a victory in the final play-in game to make the playoffs as the eighth seed. It’s possible the defending champion Lakers don’t make the playoffs.
Designed to create excitement, make more games meaningful and curtail tanking, the play-in game format added intrigue to the final days of the 2020-21 NBA season.
Teams either tried to avoid or make the play-in game.
The Warriors defeated Memphis on Sunday and finished a game ahead of the Grizzlies with a 39-33 record. Had Memphis won, it would’ve ended in eighth place. Instead, the Grizzlies are ninth and will play San Antonio in a play-in game.
Washington defeated Charlotte on Sunday, earning eighth place with a 34-38 record and will play seventh-place Boston in an Eastern Conference play-in game on Tuesday. The Pacers defeated Toronto and will get the ninth spot and a matchup against the 10th-place Hornets in the other East play-in game.
The Wizards produced a memorable end to their regular season. They were 17-32 on April 6 and in 13th-place in the East. The playoffs did not seem probable. But Bradley Beal kept scoring, Russell Westbrook racked up triple-doubles and the Wizards started winning.
The Wizards finished the season 17-6, the second-best winning percentage in the league in the final six weeks of the regular season.
How the play-in game format works
The seventh-and eighth-place teams play each other and the winner earns the No. 7 seed. The loser of that game plays the winner of the 9-10 game. The winner of that game becomes the No. 8 seed. To give the teams that had a better record during the regular season an advantage, teams 7-8 need to win just one play-in game to advance and teams 9-10 need to win two games.
When does the NBA play-in start?
The play-in games take place Tuesday-Friday with the 16-team, best-of-7 playoffs beginning Saturday.
Here is the play-in game schedule (all times Eastern):
Tenth-place Charlotte vs. ninth-place Indiana, 6:30 p.m., TNT
Eighth-place Washington vs. seventh-place Boston, 9 p.m., TNT
Tenth-place San Antonio vs. ninth-place Memphis, 7:30 p.m., ESPN
Eighth-place Golden State vs. Los Angeles Lakers, 10 p.m., ESPN
Ninth-10th winner vs. 7-8 loser, 8 p.m., TNT
Ninth-10th winner vs. 7-8 loser, start time TBD, ESPN