On Tuesday night, the 2021 NBA Play-in tournament officially started with the Indiana Pacers hosting the Charlotte Hornets and the Boston Celtics taking on the Washington Wizards. This is the second time that the NBA have used a play-in tournament, with the first one occurring in last seasons Orlando bubble. The play-in tournament gives a wide range of teams a chance to claim a spot in the Playoffs instead of just the conventional 1-8 seeding. In both the Western and Eastern conferences, the 7th placed team would host the 8th place team in a one game matchup, with the winning team securing a Playoff spot. The loser of this game however aren’t immediately eliminated, as they would host the winner of the 9th vs 10th place matchup. The winner of this game would secure the final Playoff spot, and matchup against that specific conferences 1st seed, in the opening round of the Playoffs. It is yet to be decided whether or not the NBA will make the play-in tournament permanent going forward, but it definitely adds a bit of excitement before the real Playoffs get under way.
Pacers send LaMelo and the Hornets home in blow out victory – Hornets 117-144 Pacers
The Indiana Pacers kept their Playoff hopes alive in the Eastern Conference, with a 27 point blowout win over the Charlotte Hornets. Although the Pacers were without two of their best players in Caris LeVert and Myles Turner, the team stepped up big, with 8 players scoring double digit points. Power forward, Oshae Brissett led Indiana in scoring with 23 points, whilst shooting 71.4% from the field and 50% from 3 point range on 6 attempts. 2021 All-Star, Domantas Sabonis also made his presence felt, finishing just 1 assist shy of a triple double. Sabonis scored 14 points on the night and dominated the boards, racking up a whopping 21 rebounds. The Pacers will now face the Washington Wizards for the final Playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, who ended up losing in the 7th Vs 8th seed game against the Boston Celtics.
The Charlotte Hornets season on the other hand has now come to an end after Tuesday’s loss. Despite some good production offensively, they just gave up far too many points on defence and the game ended up running away from them. Standout rookie point guard, LaMelo Ball struggled on the night scoring only 14 points, getting only 4 assists and also shooting a measly 28.6% from the field. Although it was a loss, 3rd year player, Miles Bridges can walk away with his head held high after putting up 23 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists. Coming into the season, Charlotte weren’t considered to be real playoff contenders, and although they still missed out in the end, the future is definitely bright for Hornets with players like LaMelo Ball, Miles Bridges and P.J. Washington having their best years ahead of them.
Tatum dominates as Celtics see off Wizards – Wizards 100-118 Celtics
The Boston Celtics punched their ticket to the Playoffs after an 18 point win over the Washington Wizards. It’s fair to say, that this season has been a disappointing one for the Boston Celtics and their head coach Brad Stevens. But with their season on the line, and a Playoff spot up for grabs, the big players officially came to play for the Celtics. Step forward, Jayson Tatum, who scored an incredible 50 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists in 40 minutes on the court. At the age of 23, Tatum has really come into his own this past season, posting career highs in points, rebounds and assists. Although Tatum deservedly stole the headlines with his huge night, fellow co-star, Kemba Walker also showed up as he scored 29 points on 41.7% shooting, whilst also adding 7 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals. Walker’s Celtics career has been up and down since he joined in the summer of 2019, but there is no doubting what he brings to the team, and he stepped up last night when he was needed most. The Celtics have now set up a mouthwatering first round series against the Brooklyn Nets, who are widely regarded as the favourites in the Eastern Conference.
In terms of the Washington Wizards, their Playoff hopes now hang by a thread after the loss to Boston. Despite a poor first quarter, the Wizards rallied in the 2nd quarter and made it a tight game going into half time. However, similar to the Charlotte Hornets, Washington just never got going on both ends of the floor and it didn’t help that their two best players struggled on the night. Russell Westbrook scored 20 points and had 14 rebounds but he only shot 33.3% from the field and missed all 4 of his 3 point attempts. It was the same story for Bradley Beal, who despite putting up 22 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists, also had a poor night shooting the ball from 3 point range, sinking only 1 of his 6 attempts. Fortunately for the Wizards, the loss didn’t completely end their season, as they will now face the Indiana Pacers for the last Playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Pacers are the ones coming into the game in good form, but when you have very good players like Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal at your disposal, anything is possible for Washington.