The play-ins are going to be a doozy. After the end of the regular season, the matchups are finally set and there should be fireworks coming this week.
Let’s take a look at all of the games set to be played this Wednesday (Manila Time)
Miami Heat (7th) vs. Atlanta Hawks (8th): Wednesday, April 12, 7:30 AM Manila Time
The Miami Heat may have finished first in the Eastern Conference last year, but this time around they were only able to secure the seventh seed. However, they do own a 3-1 season record over the Atlanta Hawks and their most recent game against each other ended in a 130-128 victory for Miami.
Jimmy Butler led the way for them with 26 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, but got a ton of help from his bench who combined for 59 points. Trae Young had 25 points and 7 assists for that game and Dejounte Murray chipped in 23 points and eight assists. The Heat are decent favorites at the moment, but Young and the Hawks have shown in the past that they’re very capable of pulling off upsets.
Toronto Raptors (9th) vs. Chicago Bulls (10th): Thursday, April 13, 10:00 AM Manila Time
The Toronto Raptors have had a mercurial season just like their upcoming opponents the Chicago Bulls. Both teams finished fifth and sixth in the standings last season but fell to ninth and tenth this year thanks to injuries and other mishaps. Still, the Raptors enter the game as favorites and will look to use their switch-heavy defense filled with lengthy wing players to try to suffocate Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan.
The Raptors won the season series 2-1 and took down the Bulls 104-98 in their last game behind Pascal Siakam’s 20 points, eight rebounds, three assists and a steal. LaVine and DeRozan were only able to combine for 40 points that game, while Nikola Vucevic led them with 23 points, five rebounds and four assists.
Los Angeles Lakers (7th) vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (8th): Wednesday, April 12, 10:00 AM Manila Time
The LA Lakers went on a surge after the trade deadline even while seeing LeBron James and D’Angelo Russell miss significant time, but they narrowly missed the guaranteed playoff spots. The good news is that James and Russell are back, with the former finishing with 36 points, six rebounds and six assists in their final regular season game.
A much deeper bench after the trade deadline, plus a resurgent Anthony Davis, makes the Lakers a tough out for anyone, even a feisty Minnesota Timberwolves team that has rising stars like Anthony Edwards and their twin towers of Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns. Minnesota have a 2-1 season series lead on the Lakers but the most recent game was a 123-111 Lakers victory that saw Davis dominate for 38 points and 17 rebounds.
New Orleans Pelicans (9th): vs. Oklahoma City Thunder(10th): Thursday, April 13, 9:30 AM Manila Time
The New Orleans Pelicans have a 3-1 season series over the Oklahoma City Thunder, and this series may come down to who wins the duel between Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Brandon Ingram. SGA has put up an All-NBA season with averages of 31.4 points, 4.8 rebounds and 5.5 assists. Ingram has averaged 24.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 5.8 assists and in his final regular season game had 42 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists in a narrow defeat to the Timberwolves.
CJ McCollum with also be key to this matchup as he’ll need to produce his averages of 20.9 points, 4.4 rebounds and 5.8 assists for the Pelicans to stand a chance. Josh Giddey will also have to continue with his strong all-around play as he’s currently averaging 16.6 points, 7.9 rebounds and 6.2 assists for the Thunder.
The X-Factor for the game could be rookie Jalen Williams, who has steadily improved over the season and has averages of 14.1 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists for the Thunder.