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2021 NBA Play-In Tournament: Seeding, matchups and analysis

(Photo Credit: NBA)

After nearly six months of regular-season action, the NBA Playoffs are just about ready to begin. The only thing standing in the league’s way? The 2021 Play-In Tournament.

For the second year in a row, basketball fans will get to watch some extra basketball before the postseason officially gets underway, with teams from each conference vying for the final two playoff spots on each side of the bracket.

While 12 teams are locked into their respective spots in the entire field, they will have to wait an extra four days as eight other squads take center stage on ESPN and TNT.

Per the NBA, “the teams with the seventh-highest and eighth-highest winning percentages in each conference will each have two opportunities to win one game to earn a playoff spot.”

The seventh seed and eighth seed will square off on each side of the bracket, with the winners earning the chance to play in a best-of-seven series against their conference’s second seed.

>>RELATED: NBA playoffs: Is the play-in tournament a ‘mistake’ like Mark Cuban said?

Meanwhile, “the teams with the ninth-highest and tenth-highest winning percentages in each conference will each have to win two consecutive games to earn a playoff spot.”

That means the ninth seed and tenth seed will battle in a win-or-go-home game, with the winner advancing to play the loser of the matchup between the higher seeds.

The winner of that game between the 7/8 and the 9/10 will then advance to play in a best-of-seven series against their conference’s top seed.

The format garnered loads of attention throughout the second half of the 2020-2021 regular season, with big names like LeBron James, Mark Cuban and Luka Doncic sharing their unhappiness with the idea.

Regardless, fans will be able to sit back, relax, and enjoy some extra, playoff-caliber basketball as a group of eight teams works its way down to four before the official start of the 2021 NBA Playoffs.

Here’s the breakdown of what you can expect to see throughout the week:

Eastern Conference:

No. 7 Boston Celtics vs. No. 8 Washington Wizards

  • TV info: Tuesday, May 18 at 9 p.m. ET on TNT
  • Analysis: The Celtics have been the definition of a rollercoaster throughout the 2020-2021 season after a solid run in last summer’s bubble. Jayson Tatum’s bout with COVID-19 towards the beginning of the year was a tough blow, followed by the loss of Jaylen Brown to a season-ending injury weeks before the postseason. Meanwhile, the Wizards are the definition of a team that got hot at the right time. Don’t be surprised if Russell Westbrook and company pull off the upset to lock down a matchup with the Brooklyn Nets in the first round with a win here.

No. 9 Indiana Pacers vs. No. 10 Charlotte Hornets

  • TV info: Tuesday, May 18 at 6:30 p.m. ET on TNT
  • Analysis: Both of these teams are in for a treat, regardless of what happens in the play-in game. Win this one? You’re guaranteed to either play a reigning Eastern Conference semifinalist, or one of the hottest players in the league in Westbrook. Win that next one? You’ll have to play Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving in a best-of-seven series. Whether it’s Pacers big man Domantas Sabonis or Hornets rookie LaMelo Ball, it’ll take a serious, star-making performance to help one of these teams advance to the playoff bracket.

Loser of No. 7/No. 8 vs. Winner of No. 9/No. 10

  • TV info: Thursday, May 20 on TNT

Western Conference:

No. 7 Los Angeles Lakers vs. No. 8 Golden State Warriors

  • TV info: Wednesday, May 19 at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN
  • Analysis: How about this for a play-in game? LeBron James and Anthony Davis vs. Stephen Curry and Draymond Green. The first playoff battle between James and Curry since their annual NBA Finals matchups during James’ second tenure with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Two California squads looking to lock down a matchup with the Phoenix Suns. It’s tough to guarantee anything with this matchup, outside of sheer talent and absolute madness.

No. 9 Memphis Grizzlies vs. No. 10 San Antonio Spurs

  • TV info: Wednesday, May 19 at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
  • Analysis: It seemed like the Play-In Tournament was created in 2020 to get rookies like Grizzlies star Ja Morant or New Orleans Pelicans star Zion Williamson in the playoffs in their first season. Alas, neither got the job done, and the Grizzlies were left disappointed after a promising 2019-2020 campaign. They’ll have an opportunity to right the wrong when they play the Spurs on May 19. But, a war with Stephen Curry or LeBron James looms in the background, which seems especially daunting when factoring in what Curry did to Memphis in the two teams’ regular-season finale on Sunday.

Loser of No. 7/No. 8 vs. Winner of No. 9/No. 10

  • TV info: Friday, May 21 on ESPN

Who do you think will advance to the first round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs through the league’s Play-In Tournament? Let us know by following @SOTSports on Twitter or by liking our Facebook page!

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