Nobody expected the Lakers and few expected the Warriors. The Celtics and Wizards were also not expected to be involved in the nitty-gritty. The renewed play-in tournament for access to the playoffs has given a unexpected prominence to the previous phase shoehorn by the NBA in the already crowded and chaotic schedule of the 2020-2021 season, shortened to 72 regular season games due to the pandemic and the clash with the Tokyo Olympics postponed last year.
The invention has caused an unexpected duel among the two stars that move the most masses in world and American basketball: LeBron James and Stephen Curry will fight alongside their teams for seventh place in the Western Conference in an all or nothing match. The loser, in addition, must play his presence in the playoffs against the winner of the game between the thriving Memphis Grizzlies and the wise San Antonio Spurs.
It’s a juicy menu, also completed by two interesting pairings in the Eastern Conference that will pit the downhearted Boston Celtics against the hungry Washington Wizards and the entertaining Indiana Pacers against the also hilarious Charlotte Hornets.
The action begins today (from 00:30 am in the Spanish morning) with the duels of the East, the starter before the main course at dawn on May 20. This is how the teams arrive at this mini-tournament lasting three days of life or death:
Early morning from Tuesday 18 to Wednesday 19
(9) Indiana Pacers vs. Charlotte Hornets (10) – (00: 30h, Let’s go)
It is a duel of unknowns between two teams that want and cannot. Injuries have slowed the consistency of the latter at Indiana, which has fallen to a negative record for the first time in six seasons. Charlotte, for her band, has gained prominence at the national level thanks to the irruption of LaMelo Ball, who has recovered in an express way from a wrist injury that caused him to miss many games.
Without the young point guard, the Hornets were falling in the classification and despite his return they went from eighth to tenth place when they fell on the last day. The clash has incentives such as seeing the always interesting play Domantas Sabonis, a marvel in attack but one of the great holes in the defense of the Pacers.
In a very close face-to-face, details like the absence of myles turner, the biggest blocker in the competition, may tip the balance for Charlotte. In any case, what seems more complicated is that either team could seriously threaten the loser of the game between the Celtics or the Wizards.
(7) Boston Celtics vs. Washington Wizards (8) – (03: 00h, Movistar Deportes)
The Celtics have disappointed and have not lived up to the expectations generated by a team that has reached three of the last four Conference Finals. The loss of Gordon Hayward It has clearly affected the franchise, which has found no substitute in the young pieces and latest additions. The poor balance (36-36) in regular season foresees very few joys for Brad Stevens’ team, and the question now is whether he will survive the play-in.
A key element in this tie is Jaylen Brown’s absence, seriously injured in the wrist. The shooting guard was the team’s second leading scorer and basically Boston will have to entrust yourself to the talent of Jayson Tatum and wait for the appearances (intermittent all year) of Kemba walker in attack. The rival, some Wizards who have finished the year at full speed, is the worst they could hope for a duel to a single game.
Bradley Beal’s Fitness it can be a handicap for Washington, although it is better to have him at 80% than not at all, as in Brown’s case. What’s more, Westbrook is a monster designed for these types of games life or death. He will give it his all, and Mr. Triple-Double is a specialist in making the impossible possible. Wherever you look, a great game.
Early morning from Wednesday 19 to Thursday 20
(9) Memphis Grizzlies vs. San Antonio Spurs (10) – (01: 30h, Movistar Deportes)
One of the most unpredictable qualifiers of this play-in. The Grizzlies and Spurs have a difficult time winning twice and reaching the playoffs, and a victory against the Lakers and Warriors in the third game of the mini-tournament also seems complicated.
The clash between Ja Morant and Dejounte Murray, two physical and electrical bases with tendencies towards the spectacular, promises to make sparks fly on the track. There is also a genuine interest in observing the mastery of a team of Gregg popovich in a tie that can allow them to open a new streak of playoff appearances.
The Grizzlies have the best Jonas Valanciunas of his entire career, a life insurance under the hoops that will not put on a show but will complicate the work of the Texan community. Choral work and bench depth they will be essential in this tie. San Antonio’s poor three-percentages and its worst record portend more chances for Memphis, which battled Golden State for eighth place until the final matchday.
(7) Los Angeles Lakers vs. Golden State Warriors (8) – (04: 00h, Movistar Deportes)
The last time LeBron James and Stephen Curry they faced in an all-or-nothing match, the Game 7 of the 2016 Finals, a total of 30.8 million viewers They hooked up to the broadcast to watch them battle for the title. That is the dimension of the gift that this season has prepared for us for the play-in.
The great duel of the play-in faces two colossi and two teams in unexpected situations. The Lakers started the course at full speed and they were seconds from the west
when Anthony Davis and LeBron James got injured, that months of competition were lost and they saw how the team was losing steam. Another one that is offside is Dennis schroder, which in addition to getting angry at the broken negotiations for its renewal, entered the league’s sanitary protocol a couple of weeks ago and has barely been able to catch a rhythm for the play-in heats.
The Warriors, for their part, they have gone from less to more this season they started depressed by the new serious injury of Klay thompson. Without him, some expected to see a frail and lonely Stephen Curry, but the point guard has shown that his talent can shine even without his ‘Splash Brother’ accompanying him. In fact, LeBron has even hung him the MVP medal to start animating the duel. The young and renewed Golden State squad has learned on the fly and has been planted in the play-in despite its uneven performance.
Draymond Green is still life insurance and a multipurpose tool, while Andrew Wiggins and Kelly Oubre Jr. they explode on odd days. In recent days, the emergence of Mychal Mulder and Jordan Poole. But make no mistake: the key to success is in what Stephen Curry, the competition’s top scorer this year, and LeBron James, who has no brakes (apart from injuries) at 36, can contribute to their teams.