Tonight was our first taste of Play-In Tournament mania. After a grueling slog of a season, the Eastern Conference’s 7-10 seeds played on Tuesday. First, the Indiana Pacers hosted the Charlotte Hornets. Next, the Boston Celtics took on the Washington Wizards. With each game that was played, we started to get a clearer picture of who might become the Sixers’ first-round opponent for the playoffs. NBA players have expressed mixed feelings about the Play-In. And while it may feel unfair to a team that lands in the 7th seed to have to defend their playoff berth, it sure makes for some added drama. We saw that this evening, even though neither of these games wound up being very close.
Pacers lap Hornets
The first game of the night was a snooze fest. The Indiana Pacers hosted and roasted the Charlotte Hornets. Indy came into the night with an injury report that read like an old sea scroll. Caris LeVert was scratched early on Tuesday because he had to enter the league’s health and safety protocols. Malcolm Brogdon had missed 10 games previously with a hamstring issue but their lead guard suited up and had an impact scoring 16 points and dishing 8 dimes. The Pacers’ lone All-Star, Domantas Sabonis, was a game-time decision as well with a quad issue, but he played and looked healthy putting up some video game numbers. Sabonis finished with 14 points, 21 rebounds and 9 assists, one dime shy of a triple-double.
Indiana opened the game with some crisp ball movement and kept finding their shooters, as Doug McDermott started off scorching. Charlotte really never recovered:
Doug McDermott and the Pacers are feeling it early pic.twitter.com/7XORmX9inL— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) May 18, 2021
The game was never in question and the Hornets’ youth and inexperience were exploited. Players like LaMelo Ball, Malik Monk, P.J. Washington, and Miles Bridges are all talented but possess precious little playoff (let alone play-in) experience. The Hornets’ season is over but they’ll be compensated at least with a chance at a top-four pick (8.5 percent) in the upcoming draft; that might wind up being more valuable than the chance to keep playing, who knows.... They certainly have some reasons to be hopeful:
Until next year, House of LaMelo. pic.twitter.com/uFyuYAhTCG— House of Highlights (@HoHighlights) May 19, 2021
Indiana put up a whopping 144 and looked quite good doing it. They might be a handful for their next opponent.
Celtics catch fire after the half, take out the Wiz
The next game of the night was the Washington Wizards at the Boston Celtics. The winner would secure the 7th seed and book a trip to Brooklyn; the loser to host the Pacers on Thursday.
Boston jumped out to an early lead, and Washington’s Bradley Beal was clearly favoring the left hamstring issue that has hindered him recently. But Beal’s wheel appeared to loosen up as the game went on, and the Wizards came back and built a lead of their own.
But the second half was another story. The Celtics just sort of stopped...missing shots. While the Wiz possessed a lead at the half, Boston’s Jayson Tatum absolutely erupted in the third quarter scoring 23 of his game-high 50 points.
JAYSON TATUM— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) May 19, 2021
So the Hornets are gone fishing and the Celts shall head to Brooklyn for round one.
Who’s next for Philly?
And for the Sixers, now it’s down to two. On Thursday at 8:00 PM Eastern, the Pacers who won 144-117, will try to beat a Wizards team that lost 118-100. The loser will finish as the 9th seed and start scouting college players. The winner travels to Wells Fargo Center for a showdown this coming Sunday. That will kick start their best of 7 game series. Doc Rivers, Dave Joerger, Sam Cassell, and the rest of the staff can begin (continue) scouting both the Pacers and Wiz.
Although per our Tom West, Coach Rivers suggested the team may not focus on potential opponents during practice right away:
“We’re pretty much focused on us right now,” Rivers said. “Honestly, let’s say if we knew our opponent, we probably wouldn’t work on our opponent until Thursday anyway. So I would say the first couple of days we really are focused on what we do. But we still work on NBA sets, and in this case there’s what, four teams available [in the play-in], and we probably work on a couple sets that they all run.”
Philly swept the Wiz 3-0 and took 2 of 3 against the Pacers. The one they lost was in Indiana and Joel Embiid was not in the lineup that night. The Sixers possessed an 11 point halftime lead but wound up dropping that one back on May 11th.
Who are you hoping wins the chance to take on the Sixers in the playoffs?
Who are you rooting for the Sixers to play in round one?
This poll is closed
The Washington Wizards
The Indiana Pacers