Hot Topics: Who gets the No. 7 and No. 8 seeds in both conferences?

The star power of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant makes the Nets a favorite to emerge with the No. 7 seed.

Who will emerge as the No. 7 and No. 8 seeds in the East? And who will emerge as the #7 and #8 seeds in the West?

> Calendar of Play-In tournaments

Steve Ashburner: brooklyn and Cleveland to the East. My head demands I go with the Nets, while my heart dictates I go with the Cavaliers. No one ever wants to face Kevin Durant in some kind of play-off or play-in, and Kyrie Irving is just obnoxious enough to stick with his old team as he tries to salvage his largely lost season. But the difference between an 0-2 Play-In exit and a first-round opportunity would mean everything to the Cavs. Injuries hampered what could have been a Top 4 finish in the East, and there were simply too many positives in their season for it to end on Friday. Cleveland deserves to press a reset button…as long as they can somehow contain Atlanta’s Trae Young.

The matchups for the Eastern Play-In tournament have been set for the last day of the season.

The LA Clippers and Minnesota in the West. In that order, which means the Clippers will win Game 7 vs. 8 and force the Timberwolves to beat the 9-10 winner, either the Pelicans or the Spurs, to reach the playoffs for the second time. only. since 2004 (2018 was the other). Coach Tyronn Lue’s team went 3-1 against Minnesota in the regular season and outlasted most of the season, including a 6-1 final kick. But Wolves almost never take the easy way out. In fact, as much as I love the Play-In tournament, it stinks that Minnesota was closer to fifth in the West than ninth, but still has to jump through those hoops to qualify. Its 46-36 record is the best in short Play-In history and would be an obvious playoff team in the traditional format. Two shots at Target Center, revived this season from an insurance office atmosphere to a legitimate noisy arena, will suffice, however.

Marc Medina: The Brooklyn Nets (No. 7) and the Atlanta Hawks (No. 8) play in the East. The Nets may not deserve the benefit of the doubt that they’ll be heading to the Finals, but amid all the disruption and inconsistencies on their roster, they certainly have enough talent in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to secure a win. in play-in. They may worry about the availability of Ben Simmons and the rest of their roster once the playoffs actually begin. As for the Hawks, they have relatively more experience and success than Charlotte and Cleveland after advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals last season. The Hawks have shown this season they don’t have enough to join the Eastern Conference elite, but Trae Young’s brilliant scoring and play should be enough to secure a playoff appearance.

Shaq, Chuck and EJ discuss whether Ben Simmons will be ready to play in the playoffs.

The LA Clippers (#7) and Minnesota Timberwolves (#8) are my picks out West. The Clippers regained their health at the right time. And, no, the Clippers have given no indication that Kawhi Leonard will play after spending the past week completing individual practices. But the Clippers have at least brought in Paul George and Norman Powell after missing them for a long time this season. So while it doesn’t look like Leonard will return for at least the Play-In game, the Clippers are far more talented and consistent than most Play-In teams.

The New Orleans Pelicans and San Antonio Spurs certainly have their own cases for locking down the No. 8 seed. But the Timberwolves played the best of the bunch. Minnesota has blossomed since the All-Star break with the NBA’s third-best center (Karl-Anthony Towns), a versatile forward (Anthony Edwards), and a dynamic point guard (D’Angelo Russell). They’ve also developed some toughness with irritating veteran Patrick Beverley. Of course, Spurs are well trained. And of course, the Pelicans relied on a mix of young talent (Brandon Ingram) and veterans (CJ McCollum) to overcome the absence of Zion Williamson. But the Timberwolves have the most talent and depth.

Shaun Powell: In the East, it is the Nets (7) and the Hawks (8). Did you notice how the Cavs, after going 34-21, slipped on a banana peel? They picked the wrong time to freshen up, and that’s partly due to the absence of injured Jarrett Allen, who is a much-needed asset at both ends. Allen remains doubtful for a comeback, and either way, Cleveland looks ill-equipped against Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and the Nets for the seventh seed. Then it comes down to whether the Cavs can hold off the Hawks for the final playoff spot. Atlanta hosts Charlotte and is expected to win as the Hawks have won 11 of their last 12 home games. Then Trae Young, the league leader in total points and assists, should be enough to push Atlanta back into the playoffs.

Get to know Minnesota’s dynamic young star, Anthony Edwards.

In the West, give me the Clippers (7) and Wolves (8). Paul George has been terrific since returning from injury and, if you remember last season, has shaken his reputation for failing in the playoffs. Plus, Norman Powell, too, has been booming since his return. That should be enough for the more experienced Clippers to beat Wolves for seventh place. But fear not for Minnesota. The Pelicans – who are expected to fend off Spurs – are one Zion Williamson short of bringing deep suspense to the fight for No. 8. Karl-Anthony Towns will be too many, and on top of that, New Orleans (17-24 ) is unreliable on the road.

John Schuhman: In the East, it’s Brooklyn (7) and Cleveland (8). None of these four teams should have a ton of confidence in their ability to win a single game when needed. Atlanta, Brooklyn and Charlotte have all struggled to shut down all season, while the Cavs have struggled at both ends of the court since losing Jarrett Allen. But the Nets have Kevin Durant, which automatically makes him the No. 7 vs. No. 8 favorite on Tuesday. And give Cleveland the advantage for the No. 8 seed because they only need to win one game because Allen could be back on Friday. and because the Hawks (9-10 game favorites) have struggled so much on the road (9-17 since Christmas).

In the West, I have Minnesota (7) and the Clippers (8). Anything can happen in a one-game scenario, but favor home teams. The Clippers are obviously stronger with Paul George back in the lineup and they kept Karl-Anthony Towns in check in the regular season (his 15.3 points per game was his lowest average against any opponent in the league). ‘West). But the three games he played against LA came in November, Wolves were 12-4 at home when they had their starting lineup full, and their bench improved a lot after the Champions League break. stars. They are two very good teams and, although the Pelicans have improved over the season, there is a big gap between 7-8 and 9-10 in the West.

Michael C. Wright: brooklyn easily go into the playoffs like the East seeded No. 7while Atlanta beats the Hornets and Cavaliers to head to the playoffs at No. 8. Durant struggled in the season finale against Indiana on Sunday, hitting just 5 of 17 players on the court before notching his fourth triple-double with a career-high 16 assists and 10 rebounds. Cleveland shouldn’t expect such a chilly shooting night from Durant on Tuesday. As we all know, Brooklyn entered the season as one of the Eastern Conference favorites, and you can bet the Nets will use their All-Star pedigree with Durant and Irving along with timely contributions from veterans. sharp shooters such as Seth Curry and Patty Mills. live up to that promise. Cleveland’s youth and hunger won’t stand up to Brooklyn’s collective skills and big-game experience, even if the Cavs somehow get All-Star center Jarrett Allen back (broken finger), a defensive anchor.

Trae Young has shown maturity in his game in 2021-22, but for Atlanta to have a long playoff streak, his defense needs to improve.

Atlanta’s toughest game in the Play-In tournament is Wednesday’s clash with the young and athletic Charlotte Hornets, as Miles Bridges and LaMelo Ball have been in tears lately. After reaching the Eastern Finals last season, the Hawks have underperformed in 2021-22. Are they regressing or moving on to the next stage? Coach Nate McMillan and Trae Young have too much pride to let the former happen. But don’t count on Atlanta’s return to the conference finals either. The Hawks closed the season strong, winning seven of their last nine, while the Cavs struggled in the streak, losing eight of their last 11. Young and Clint Capela should prove to be a dangerous combo for Atlanta in the tournament.

In the West, it’s likely we’ll be watching both teams on Tuesday in Game 2 of TNT’s doubleheader, and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit hoping for a first-round clash between two of the funniest and most talkative teams in the league in Memphis and Minnesota. So, Timberwolves take No. 7 seed set up a first-round series against the Grizzlies, and the LA Clippers finish at No. 8 and head to Phoenix. Don’t get too caught up in the regular season series between Los Angeles and Minnesota. The Clippers won that game 3-1, but three of those games were played over a 10-day stretch in November. On top of that, the Timberwolves have been a much better team since then, going 30-16 after starting the season 16-20. Armed with 59 games of playoff experience, Patrick Beverley will mercilessly harass his former Clippers teammates with his antics, which in turn will charge Anthony Edwards, D’Angelo Russell and, most importantly, leading scorer Karl-Anthony Towns, who should be able to have his way with Ivica Zubac.

With star forward Paul George back in the fold, can LA make a serious playoff run?

The Clippers have big-game experience, having reached the Western Conference Finals last season for the first time in franchise history. But hunger, youth, athleticism and momentum are on Minnesota’s side. On top of that, a repeat of last year’s Conference Finals could prove to be the most favorable game LA can hope for in the first round, especially considering coach Tyronn Lue’s ability to plan. the match for the opponents.

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