The 2020-2021 NBA season has come to an end and it is now time for the first-ever play-in tournament. If you're reading this article I'm assuming you know how the tournament works, but just to be sure, the play-in tournament works like this: The 7-10 seeds in both conferences all have a chance to make the playoffs. The 7th & 8th seeds will play one game to determine who earns the 7th seed. The loser of that game will play the winner of the game between the 9th & 10th seed to determine who earns the final playoff spot. Now that we know what teams will be playing in those games, I will tell you exactly which teams will move on to the playoffs.
Let's start with the Western Conference. The #7 Los Angeles Lakers will play the #8 Golden State Warriors and the #9 Memphis Grizzlies will play the #10 San Antonio Spurs.
I'm not going to hold you too long. I'm going to tell you right now, the Lakers will beat the Warriors. Although the Warriors have an MVP candidate in Steph Curry, the Warriors simply do not have enough outside of him to compete with a Lakers team that now has all of its players available. It will be an uphill battle for Steph to take down two alpha males in LeBron James and Anthony Davis especially considering the Lakers won the season series 2-1.
The Lakers take the 7th seed and face the Phoenix Suns in the first round
As for the 2nd matchup between the Grizzlies and the Spurs, I believe the Grizzlies will win this game. The Grizzlies are a young and hungry team that seems ready to avenge what happened last year against the Portland Trailblazers in the play-in game.
The Grizzlies move on to play the Warriors for the 8th seed
Now we have the Grizzlies and Warriors playing for the final playoff spot. As much as I would love to see Ja Morant and Dillon Brooks make the playoffs for the first time, it's not going to happen. Steph Curry will not allow the Warriors to lose two consecutive games with a playoff spot on the line. We're talking about someone who has won multiple NBA Championships, MVPs, and Scoring Titles. If the Warriors lose that would be a major upset for Golden State and the rest of the league.
Warriors secure the 8th seed and go on to face the Utah Jazz in the first round
Now it's time for the Eastern Conference. The #7 Boston Celtics will play the #8 Washington Wizards and the #9 Indiana Pacers will play the #10 Charlotte Hornets.
For the Celtics to be in this position is a major disappointment. They were coming off an Eastern Conference Finals appearance and had expectations to make it back this year. Unfortunately, they lost one of their best players for the rest of the year in Jaylen Brown and have been struggling to be consistent. With that being said, I don't believe the Celtics will be able to win against the Wizards who have the all-time triple-doubles leader, Russell Westbrook, and the 2nd leading scorer this year in Bradley Beal.
The Wizards move on to face the Brooklyn Nets
This is going to be a tough one for me to choose because I believe the Pacers are a better team, but I would love to see the Hornets in the playoffs. They have a ROY candidate with LaMelo Ball and have been able to put together a nice season with so many young players on the roster. Sadly, I don't think they'll be able to stop Damontas Sabonis, Malcolm Brogdon, and Caris Lavert. Indiana has too seasoned players on their rosters to lose the first game.
Pacers move on to play the Celtics
With the Celtics being one game away from going home, I don't believe they'll be able to pull it together to secure the 8th seed. The Celtics will probably be so upset after a loss to the Wizards, they'll pack it up and be ready to go to Cancun. On top of that, I think Sabonis once again, poses a matchup problem for the Celtics and absolutely terrorizes them.
Pacers secure the 8th seed and have to play the Philadelphia 76ers.
Make sure you watch the Coach Motton Podcast tomorrow to see my way-too-early playoff predictions.