The NBA’s shiny new, and much-discussed Play-In tournament tips off this evening. It’s been a wild season with unprecedented hurdles for the NBA to navigate. With a pandemic, a shortened offseason, a schedule jampacked with too many games, there were countless nights when the stars simply weren’t in uniform. If we haven’t yet reached the official “post-season” we’ve at least reached this exciting new limbo stage. The Sixers were the Eastern Conference’s top seed. But the twist is, they’ll need to wait to learn who they’ll be playing. So let’s look at the matchups that loom and consider a few scenarios for the Sixers first-round opponent.
The 9th seed Indiana Pacers host the 10th seed Charlotte Hornets
At 6:30 PM tonight the upstart Hornets will visit the beat-up Indiana Pacers. Just look at this injury report for the Pacers right now per Rotowire.com:
The Pacers learned today that Caris LeVert will not be available to play after entering the league’s health and safety protocol. LeVert was acquired in the blockbuster trade that landed James Harden in Brooklyn because the rebuilding Rockets preferred Victor Oladipo and his expiring contract.
Indiana will be especially short-handed tonight and some of their players (like Malcolm Brogdon) who should suit up will probably not be 100 percent. If a player is a game-time decision for a one-and-done single-elimination game, he’s almost certainly not feeling his best.
The loser of this contest is done for the season. The winner of this contest will await the loser of the next game...by that point in the evening, the Sixers will be down to 3 possibilities for their first-round opponent.
The 7th seed Boston Celtics host the 8th seed Washington Wizards
By 9:00 PM tonight, the Celtics will host the Wizards. The biggest storyline in this game is again (stop me if you’ve heard this one) player health as Wizards’ superstar Bradley Beal is battling a hamstring issue. He played in a crucial game against the Hornets on Sunday but he was just 8-27 and did not look like himself, admittedly playing through pain. The injury report:
Bradley Beal, who has been dealing with a hamstring strain, is not on the Wizards’ injury report for tonight’s play-in against the Celtics. All signs point to him playing.— Fred Katz (@FredKatz) May 18, 2021
He fought through the injury to play 35 minutes against the Hornets during Sunday’s season-capper.
The Celtics have lost 9 of their last 13 games entering the play-in game, and Jaylen Brown is out.— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) May 18, 2021
The Wizards ended their season on a 17-6 run and have been one of the NBA's hottest teams since April 1.
Everything you need to know about tonight's game: https://t.co/XFaGlG9Yz7
The winner of this contest secures the 7th seed and locks up their date with the 2nd seeded Brooklyn Nets. The loser will host the winner of the Hornets-Pacers game.
At that point in the night, if you are still awake, the 76ers will have narrowed their next opponent down to two teams; they’ll play the winner of the first game or the loser of the second game. Those teams will square off on Thursday and the Sixers will host the winner.
So for example, if the Hornets sting the Pacers tonight, Indiana is done, they’ll finish as the 10th seed. The Hornets will wait to see who loses the next game in Boston. If the Wizards beat the Celtics, Washington gets the 7th seed. And then the Hornets would travel to Boston. The winner of that books their trip to Wells Fargo. The loser gets a few ping pong balls for the draft lottery and a new fishing pole.
Things could not have broken much better for the Sixers. There is a good chance they’ll be playing a team that is not at all healthy when round one begins this coming Sunday. If they win that they’ll still be able to avoid the Nets, the Bucks, and last year’s Conference Champs, the Heat in round two. They would get to host the winner of the Hawks-Knicks series. But that’s looking down the road.
By late tonight, Doc Rivers and his coaching staff will be able to start scouting possible matchups against the two teams vying for the 8th seed and their ticket to 30th street station.
Let us know in the replies who you’d like the Sixers to face....