Driscoll’s 2024 NBA Play-In Tournament Predictions

NBA In-Season Tournament: Pelicans vs. Lakers, Anthony Davis Shot

The most wonderful time of the year is (almost) here. Whether you love or hate the NBA play-in tournament, it always adds stakes to the end of the season. It certainly also does not hurt that this tournament consists of LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Stephen Curry, Joel Embiid, and Jimmy Butler having to play in big games.

NBA Eastern Conference Predictions

#7 Philadelphia 76ers vs. #8 Miami Heat

This is probably the most stacked game since the NBA Play-In Tournament was implemented. Had the Sixers stayed healthy all season long, they would easily be a top-three team in the East. And we all know Miami’s history of overachieving in the playoffs.


If the Sixers want to win this game, they will need Joel Embiid to play like Joel Embiid. There were concerns about him being a bit rusty after missing a couple of months. However, he has not missed a step. In five games, he averaged 30 points, nine rebounds, and five assists on 64 percent True Shooting.

With this being said, it will probably take a little more than just Embiid playing great to win this game. Tyrese Maxey will need to play like his All-Star self and one of Tobias Harris or another role player (likely Nicolas Batum or Kyle Lowry) must have a pretty solid game.


If Miami wants to win, there will be minimal room for error. Even if Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo play like All-Stars, they probably need incredible shooting from Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson, and Terry Rozier. It is certainly possible we see the playoff version of Butler come through once again, but he probably will not be able to carry as much as he has in years prior.

This will likely be a close game. The overwhelming majority of NBA fans and media have Philadelphia winning this game, and they are four-point favorites according to DraftKings. I will likely take Philadelphia with the points, but the game won’t be decided until about two or three minutes left.

#9 Bulls vs. #10 Hawks

These are easily the two worst teams in the entire playoffs. The fact that either of these teams has a shot at the playoffs ahead of either Philadelphia or Miami is why people are against the play-in tournament in the first place. With this being said, this has the potential to be a pretty solid game.


The Bulls’ second option, Zach LaVine, went down with a foot injury in the middle of January. Believe it or not, the Bulls have statistically been better without LaVine. According to, they have a -5.83 net rating with him on the floor and -0.44 with him off the floor. With this being said, come NBA playoff time, you want your guys there. As awesome as DeMar DeRozan and Coby White have been this season, the other guys must step up.

The Hawks are a relatively hard team to predict. Even though their roster is very overwhelming, Trae Young and Dejounte Murray have proven they don’t complement each other very well, and Young can never be the first option on a championship team, they are still a team that might scare you in a big game. They took the Celtics to six games last year, beat them back-to-back a few weeks ago, and had that unreal Conference Finals run in 2021. This is probably the worst team of the Young era, but I still can’t count them out.

The Bulls are three-point favorites in this game, but I’m taking Young and company on the big stage over the Bulls.

#8 Seed Game: Heat vs. Hawks

This would be a rematch of last year’s No. 7 versus No. 8 matchup. Though both teams are slightly worse, it still has the potential to be a great game.

Things would not have to go completely smooth for the Heat to beat the Hawks, unlike it would to beat the Sixers. Still, they do need to come to play and not just brush this game off. Young has the potential to light up defenses (especially in the clutch), so they will need to find ways to strategize that. Still, I think if it comes down to Butler versus Young, the Heat should have no problem winning.

For the Hawks, it will likely require more than just a Young masterclass to win this game. Clint Capela will need to out-rebound Adebayo and prevent him from getting too many offensive boards. Furthermore, role players like Murray and Bogdan Bogdanović will have to make minimal errors in this game.

It is unclear what the betting odds would be in a game like this, but I’ll take Miami in a relatively easy game.

NBA Western Conference Predictions

#7 Pelicans vs. #8 Lakers

A rematch from Sunday. These are two completely different teams, so it will be interesting to see how they approach it.

Though I was extremely high on the Pelicans a few weeks ago, I am not sure how I feel about them anymore, especially against an experienced team like the Lakers. Zion Williamson played his worst game of the season on Sunday. While some may spin this as a positive since he should only improve going forward, I think they still might have lost if he had played well.

With that said, the Pelicans have one of the best starting fives in the NBA. If Williamson comes to play, CJ McCollum or Brandon Ingram scores very efficiently, and Jonas Valančiūnas gives Anthony Davis a hard time on offense, they can win this game.

The Lakers have been one of the best teams in the league for the past few weeks. They can hang with anyone in the West outside of the Nuggets or Timberwolves. In the playoffs, experience and star power matter. If LeBron James and Anthony Davis light it up, there is not much that a team like the Pelicans could do to slow them down, even with Herbert Jones playing his best defense.

This is only one game, so anything could happen. A month ago, I would have taken the Pelicans pretty easily. However, the Lakers have been much more consistent lately, and you trust their stars more.

#9 Kings vs. #10 Warriors

The NBA play-in tournament gives us yet another rematch. This time, it is a rematch of last year’s opening round. It was a brutally fought-out seven-game series, but this time, it will just be in one game. I expect a bloodbath.

While it may seem like the Kings are much worse than last year, the reality is that the West is simply much better. Sacramento only lost two more games than last year but fell six spots in the seeding. It will take an offensive firepower game from both Domantas Sabonis and De’Aaron Fox to win. Even though the Kings’ defense has been solid since the All-Star break, facing a team like Golden State in an elimination game is a different story.

The Warriors have been impressive since the All-Star break, ranking among the top 10 in net rating. Most of this can be credited to Stephen Curry. However, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Jonathan Kuminga have also been great in their roles.

WIth all that said, you can never count out Curry in a big game. Similar to the Lakers vs. Pelicans game, I think this one will come down to experience, with the Warriors coming out on top.

#8 Seed Game: Pelicans vs. Warriors

This would be an awesome game with high-quality, two-way basketball being played for 48 minutes.

The Pelicans must find Williamson mismatches. This would be tough with Draymond Green defending him, but it may cause better spacing around him. If this is the case, New Orleans would need efficient shooting from McCollum and Ingram and take advantage of the spacing. They would also need help with perimeter defense because you can’t leave Curry or Thompson open.

If the Warriors want to win, they will need Curry to play like Curry. While this might be a given, he is not immune to having the occasional stinker. If he lays an egg, the Warriors will have no chance. In fact, it will take more than just a great game from him. Green will have to play solid defense on Williamson and the Warriors will need role players to hit their shots.

At the end of the day, it is a single-elimination game, so anything could happen. However, I’m counting on Curry to put together another great game and travel to Oklahoma City for the playoffs.

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Tyronn Lue, NBA
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