The 2021-22 NBA regular season is officially a thing of the past. The games to determine who will be the seven and eight seeds in each conference for the true playoffs begin tonight, and like last year, the Play-In Tournament will not be hurting for star power. It should be a fun night to follow along and forget about your Sixers-related worries for a few hours. Let’s take a look at tonight’s contests.
Brooklyn Nets (44-38) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (44-38) - 7:00pm ET - TNT
Everyone has basically considered it a foregone conclusion that the Nets will be the seven seed. Milwaukee sat all their players in the regular season finale to put the Celtics in a position to choose between either a) winning their final game to get the two seed, thereby setting up a potential first-round series against Brooklyn; or b) losing their final game and dropping all the way to the four seed, where they would face Toronto and not have their full roster for road games in the first round. Boston (I think, rightfully) chose to win and take the two seed, meaning Milwaukee willingly gave up home-court advantage in a potential second-round matchup in order to avoid Brooklyn.
It would be hilarious, then, if Cleveland won today and earned the seven seed. It’s a one-game sample size, much crazier things have happened. The Cavaliers are missing All-Star center Jarrett Allen, however, who has been ruled out for tonight’s game with his fractured finger. These two teams met just four days ago in Brooklyn, with the Nets winning, 118-107. Ben Simmons remains out with his bad back, but Seth Curry said yesterday that he would be suiting up tonight. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving both being healthy and eligible to play means the Nets are a dangerous opponent against anyone, regardless of what has happened up to this point. We’ll see if that holds true tonight or if the Cavaliers can pull off the upset and we can all laugh at Milwaukee.
Minnesota Timberwolves (46-36) vs. Los Angeles Clippers (42-40) - 9:30pm ET - TNT
There’s an interesting debate to be had around the Wolves, who finished closer to the sixth-seeded Nuggets (2.0 games back) than the eighth-seeded Clippers (4.0 games ahead). Some people have called for a rule where if you finish a certain number of games ahead of the team below you, you avoid the Play-In Tournament, a format similar to what the NBA utilized during the Bubble.
Minnesota is a worthy playoff team behind Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards, D’Angelo Russell, and an underrated supporting cast. It would be a shame for something fluky to happen and for them to miss out on the real postseason, but hey, they have two cracks at it, even if tonight’s opponent is tougher than your average eight seed.
The Clippers saw the return of Paul George on March 29, after he missed over three months with a torn UCL in elbow. George has logged over 30 minutes per game in his five games back, looking like his old self as the Clippers have gone 4-1 in those contests (the lone loss being an overtime defeat to Chicago). Los Angeles made a terrific trade deadline move to bring in Norm Powell and Robert Covington. With a deep squad and George back to lend his star power, the Clippers are more than capable of playing spoiler here.