With the NBA regular season now in the books, all eyes turn to the play-in games. There is excitement across the board with multiple talented teams taking on upset-hungry opponents. In the Eastern Conference, we have the Boston Celtics going up against the Washington Wizards and the Charlotte Hornets against the Indiana Pacers. We have some young teams and some experienced ones here, let’s get into the games.
Pacers (9) vs. Hornets (10)
In the first play-in game, the Pacers will take on the Hornets. The winner of this game will advance to the second play-in game while the loser will be eliminated. Despite being a solid team all season, the Hornets have stumbled into the playoffs. They’ve lost five games straight and have fallen all the way to the 10 seed after being a near-lock for the eighth seed last week.
However, this game should be a very entertaining one. The Pacers bring in their classic balanced approach with a mix of scoring between the bigs and guards. For Indiana, both Domantas Sabonis and Malcolm Brogdon will need to have big games. They’ve been the most reliable scorers all season for the Pacers and will have to, once again, step up in a big spot. The Pacers also got Caris LeVert back recently but he’s been on a bit of a minute’s restriction and is still trying to fit into the offense.
The Hornets will also look to some key guys to really step up for them in this one. Both the starting guards, LaMelo Ball and Terry Rozier, have been reliable scorers and playmakers all year. Now, the team will look for help from guys like Miles Bridges and Devonte’ Graham. The Hornets have a 2-1 record against the Pacers this year and the games have been relatively close. Overall, it’s pretty tough to tell these two teams apart but if Indiana’s guys can step up, they should take home the win in this one.
Celtics (7) vs. Wizards (8)
It’s been a really disappointing season for the Celtics and now they find themselves in this spot. After losing Jaylen Brown to a torn wrist ligament earlier this month, the team’s hopes of a title run have dwindled. However, this should still be a game they win. The winner of this game advances right into the seven-seed spot while the loser will play for the eighth seed. The Wizards are one of the hotter teams in basketball with Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal playing at the top of their games. Besides these two, though, Washington will need guys like Rui Hachimura and Davis Bertans to contribute a lot of production. This will be a game of who has the best starting lineups, as neither team is very deep.
Boston will look for Jayson Tatum to have a superb game and he’ll need to pick up the slack for the loss of Brown. The X-factor for this team, as it’s been all season, is Kemba Walker. Walker has had one of the most consistent seasons of his life and this is where he’ll need to step up most. If he and Tatum can put in the work for the Celtics then they should win this game and advance to plan the Brooklyn Nets in the first round.
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