The seven seeds are set, two teams have been fully eliminated, and we have two Play-In games left to determine who will be the eight seed in each conference. Enjoy these last appetizers before the postseason main course begins tomorrow.
Cleveland Cavaliers (44-38) vs. Atlanta Hawks (43-39) - 7:30pm ET - ESPN
Due to some injuries, the Cavaliers have been dropping down the standings, and are now one game away from missing the postseason altogether. You’d have to feel bad for that possible conclusion to what had been a feel-good story this season in Cleveland, but they do have some good news coming their way:
Major return: Cavaliers All-Star Jarrett Allen (fractured finger) will play tonight vs. Hawks in elimination Play-In Tournament game, barring setback in warmups, sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) April 15, 2022
Stepping right back into an intense loser-goes-home atmosphere after not playing for over a month would be a tough spot for Allen, but we’ll see if he’s able to provide his team with a boost. The Cavs will need all the help they can get after the Hawks looked red-hot in their 132-103 win over Charlotte. Some of that success was undoubtedly due to the Hornets’ defensive-optional approach, but even without John Collins, this Hawks roster is stacked with big-game experience following last season’s Conference Finals run. Plus, Trae Young is on the short list for guys you least want to have to contain in a one-game setting. We’ll see if Allen’s return can help recapture Cleveland’s early-season mojo, in what should shape up to be an exciting contest for the eight seed.
Los Angeles Clippers (42-40) vs. New Orleans Pelicans (36-46) - 10:00pm ET - TNT
The final Play-In game lost some luster with today’s announcement that Paul George tested positive for COVID-19 and will miss the game.
Clippers star Paul George has entered health and safety protocols and will miss tonight's Play-in game vs. New Orleans, sources tell @TimBontemps and me.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) April 15, 2022
George’s absence is another unfortunate bit of bad luck for the Clippers this season; the odds on the game shifted four points or more across sportsbooks following the news. Meanwhile, the Pelicans have been the good vibes team of this Play-In tournament. CJ McCollum scored 27 points in the first half alone in the win over San Antonio. Brandon Ingram looked more than healthy in his return to action.
QUE POSTER DE BRANDON INGRAM ✈️ pic.twitter.com/Fqi2Lwnw1y— B24 Dunk (@B24Dunk) April 14, 2022
The Pelicans making the playoffs around this revamped roster would be a fun story, even though they’d likely be easy pickings for Phoenix in the first round. Still, you feel bad for the cursed Clippers franchise suffering yet another tough blow. They’ve been plucky all year, though, so we’ll see if Ty Lue can coach up his guys to another win in the face of some adversity.