It’s tournament time and now that we know all the participants, let’s look at Day One, it will be seeded seven versus eight in each of the games. We have some interesting games here and two teams that are not expected to face off when the season resumes in October.
The play-in tournament has produced some fond memories in its short history, like Lebron James vs Steph Curry in a seven-eighth match in last year’s play-ins. It’s a game where James wins three games while seeing orderrim. This year’s tournament can also work wonders on day one.
Game 1: No. 8 Cleveland at No. 7 Brooklyn
This battle for the 7th seed in the east will be a close match throughout. It feels like a long time now, but Jarrett Allen and Caris LeVert were the Brooklyn Nets last season. Most players are often hyped about any chance of beating the team they have traded with, no matter how old it is. The fact that a win over the Nets could have played a part in their downfall this season should be additional motivation for Allen and LeVert.
All the momentum in the world probably won’t be enough to take the Cavs over the Nets on this day. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving would be too much for this young squad of the Cavs who will fight but ultimately won’t have enough firepower to compete with Brooklyn in this scenario. I can see this is a game where KD and Kyrie go out for more than 35 points each. Both players know they need big performances and can’t lose this game.
Aside from Rajon Rondo and Kevin Love, this is a relatively young and inexperienced team in Cleveland. Love and Rondo will need to dig deep into their pockets of tricks to help the Cavs overcome the Nets in this game. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but a loss to the Nets would be surprising. One advantage the Cavs have over the Nets is on the front lines. And it is a significant advantage.
The Cavs’ frontline is nearly 7 feet across the board with Allen, Lauri Markkanen and Evan Mobley. Mobley is in a position where most of the top three draft picks would not normally be in their rookie season. It’s meaningful game play in April. It may not go much further, but this year is off to a great start for this young squad.
I helped the Nets win this game and went on to face the Boston Celtics in the first round of the eastern conference knockout. The storm of criticism that will hit Brooklyn if they lose this game is something Durant and Irving want to avoid.
Winner: Brooklyn Nets
Round 2: LA Clippers No. 8 vs No. 7 Minnesota
In the westerns, the Clippers, led by Paul George, are the team that no top seed wants to face in the first round. George has averaged 22.5ppg in his last four games returning to the squad from injury. And honestly, the Clippers aren’t your regular bottom seed.
Before PG went down in December, the Clippers were ranked 4th and 5th for the first few months of the season. They also recently brought back Norman Powell, adding Reggie Jackson and other cast members. You now have a formidable team heading into post-season.
Minnesota has had a fantastic season with Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards, D’Angelo Russell and Malik Beasley as their core players. That was three previous high lottery draw picks and another talent in the first round. It’s time for this team to step up and improve its performance. The Timberwolves have won the most games (46) since 2018. The reason Minnesota is “young” won’t fly for too long, so getting out on the field and surprising this veteran Clippers team would be a great way to qualified for the knockout round.
The big guns for Minnesota couldn’t scare off the stage playing a national television indie game with a shot in post-production on the line. Twolves will need 20 plus points for each of their young stars, Towns, Edwards and Russell, with Beasley also chipping away with his 12-15. Minnesota needs the maximum effort of everyone who hits the floor in this game. Beating the Clippers would be an incredible way to let the whole league know that they’re here to stay.
There wasn’t too much pressure on the Clippers because nobody expected much of them anyway once George was injured, and Kawhi Leonard didn’t recover from ACL surgery. Whatever the Clippers achieve after this season is gravy. I see the Clippers win this game against Twolves. Then I’ll take the Clippers for seven games via Grizzlies in the first round. Yes, I’m calling.
Winner: LA Clippers