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2022 NBA Play-In Tournament Predictions: Nets And Clippers Make Playoffs, Cavaliers And Pelicans Miss Out

play-in graphic

The play-in tournament determines the final two playoff seeds in the conference. With the regular season ended, the top six seeds in each conference are granted an automatic playoff berth. Seeds seven through ten are entered in a play-in tournament, while seeds 11 through 15 look to the lottery.

The play-in tournament is formatted as such. The seven and eighth seeds play each other with the winner claiming the seventh seed. The loser of this game will play the winner of the nine and ten seed matchup. The loser of the nine and ten seed will see their season end. The winner of the loser of seven/eight and the winner of nine/ten will claim the eight seed and play the one seed in each respective conference. In all three games, the higher seed team has a home-court advantage.

The Miami Heat, Boston Celtics. Phoenix Suns and Memphis Grizzlies will all be paying close attention as this play-in tournament directly impacts them. The Heat and Suns will play the team that finishes as the eighth seed, while the Celtics and Grizzlies will play the team that finishes with the seven seed.

Here is how this tournament is going to play out and these teams will be each team’s respective opponents.

Eastern Conference

No. 9 Atlanta Hawks vs. No. 10 Charlotte Hornets

The two teams played each other four times this season and split the series. The Hawks won the first matchup in November 115-105. Miles Bridges scored 35 points to lead the Hornets, while the Hawks made up for Trae Young had a horrendous shooting night, shooting 5 of 15 from the field. LaMelo Ball was worse, shooting 5 of 18 from the field. In the second matchup, the Hornets used a combined 60 points from Bridges and Kelly Oubre Jr. to pull away 130-127.

The third matchup saw the Hawks blow out Charlotte 113-91. Young scored 30 points, while De’Andre Hunter added 20 points. In the final matchup, the Hornets came out victorious 116-106 as Ball, Bridges, and Terry Rozier each scored at least 18 points. In the last two matchups, Gordon Hayward did not play, which is telling given that Hayward will miss this game as well.

With elimination at stake, it’s easy to follow the pattern. Neither team has been able to put together two straight wins against the team. Why would that start now? Not to mention, Young has proven more in the playoffs than any member of the Hornets. This will be the first taste of the playoffs for Ball and Bridges and experience goes a long way. Look for the Hawks to pull out the victory to keep their season alive.

Prediction: Hawks def. Hornets 118-102

No. 7 Brooklyn Nets vs. No. 8 Cleveland Cavaliers

The Nets and Cavaliers played four times this season with the Nets winning three of the four matchups. The first matchup saw the Nets defeat the Cavaliers 109-99. James Harden led the team with 27 points with Kevin Durant adding 23 points. The second time, the Cavaliers played better but were defeated 117-112. Durant led the team with 27 points, while Harden added a double-double of 14 points and 14 assists.

Cleveland was able to win the third matchup 114-107 thanks to every starter scoring double digits. There was no Durant in this game for Brooklyn, but both Kyrie Irving and Harden were in the game. The last matchup saw Brooklyn win 118-107, where Irving and Harden teamed up for 49 points with no Durant in the lineup.

This is a tricky matchup because Evan Mobley has missed a couple of games in the series, while Durant and Irving have not played together once against Cleveland. With that said, stars go a long way. This Nets squad is filled with experience in comparison to the Cavaliers, who are tasting the postseason for the first time. The Nets should take care of business here.

Prediction: Nets def. Cavaliers 110-98

No. 8 Cleveland Cavaliers. vs No. 9 Atlanta Hawks

The Cavaliers and Hawks have played each other four times this season with the Hawks winning the last three games. The first time the two teams played was the only Cleveland win. In the 101-95 win, Ricky Rubio led the team with 23 points, but Rubio has been out with an injury for a long time, while Collin Sexton was healthy as well with 12 points.

While Rubio and Sexton are not the entirety of the Cavaliers, it could pose a reason why the Hawks have won the last three games. The Hawks own 121-118, 124-116, and 131-107 wins against Cleveland. In those games, Trae Young scored 35, 41, and 30 points. If there is one player Cleveland can’t stop, it’s him.

The difference-maker will be Caris LeVert, who was unable to score double-digits consistently. If he can somewhat match Young, it will significantly help the Cavaliers. The other component will be if Evan Mobley can go toe-to-toe with Clint Capela in the paint. With that said, the Hawks appear to have the better matchup and could make up for their season by qualifying for the playoffs in the end.

Prediction: Hawks def. Cavaliers 102-94

Western Conference

No. 9 New Orleans Pelicans vs. No. 10 San Antonio Spurs

The Pelicans and Spurs have played four times this season, where the Spurs won three of the four matchups. That also includes sweeping both games at New Orleans this season. The first time, the Spurs defeated New Orleans 112-97. Jakob Poetl and Derrick White teamed up for 48 points. The last three times the two teams played featured CJ McCollums’ addition to the team, but even with him added, the Spurs won the second matchup 124-114 with 31 points coming from Dejounte Murray.

The Pelicans blew out San Antonio the third time 124-91 with Brandon Ingram out. Ingram remained out of the fourth game as San Antonio overcame 32 points from McCollum to win 107-93. Murray recorded a triple-double of 15 points, 11 rebounds, and 13 assists to lead the Spurs.

Even if Ingram plays, he will be rusty and you can’t be rusty when it’s a win-or-go-home situation. Zion Williamson is not going to play either, and even if he did, it would be his first game of the season. McCollum can’t do all the work, while Devonte Graham is extremely disappointing against the Spurs. In his last meeting, he was -22 when on the floor. The Spurs have the more favorable matchup and will look to qualify for the postseason after winning this game.

Prediction: Spurs def. Pelicans 125-111

No. 7 Minnesota Timberwolves vs. No. 8 Los Angeles Clippers

Neither of these teams are the same since the last time they played. In November, the Timberwolves and Clippers played three times. The Clippers won all three games. The last time each team played was January 3 and the Timberwolves won the game 122-104. Each time the Clippers won, it was by at least 10 points. The one time the Timberwolves won was when Paul George was out with an injury.

Let’s look at the facts. George is healthy and scheduled to play. These two teams haven’t played against each other with the Clippers having Norman Powell and Robert Covington on the team. This will be the first playoff appearance for Anthony Edwards, and the first for D’Angelo Russell in a very long time while he is battling an injury that makes his game-time status uncertain.

In the end, the Clippers are way more equipped to succeed than Minnesota. Until Karl-Anthony Towns gives us a reason to believe he can take over a game like Nikola Jokic and lead his team in the playoffs, you have to go with the more defined star in George and his supporting cast. With that said, keep an eye out for Pat Beverley giving us at least one highlight of trash talk.

Prediction: Clippers def. Timberwolves 109-99

No. 7 Timberwolves vs. No. 10 San Antonio Spurs

The Cinderella story for the Spurs would come to an end in this matchup. The Timberwolves and Spurs played each other three times this season with the Timberwolves winning each time. The first matchup saw Minnesota win 115-90, where Towns scored 25 points and limited Murray to just seven points. In the second matchup, Minnesota win 149-139, where Towns erupted for 60 points to overcome 34 points from Keldon Johnson and 30 points from Murray.

The two teams last played on April 7 with Minnesota sweeping the series 127-121. It took 49 points from Anthony Edwards to lead the Timberwolves past San Antonio, who were playing without Murray due to an undisclosed illness. By this time, Murray should be conditioned and ready to go.

Even with Murray back in the rotation, the Timberwolves have found a way to constantly win. With that said, it’s hard to defeat a team four times in a season, as evidenced by every team on this list with a 3-1 record at best in four games. However, there is not enough evidence to support that Minnesota would lose this game, but it should be a close one.

Prediction: Timberwolves def. Spurs 110-106