A burning question for every NBA Play-in Matchup

The 2022 NBA play-in tournament tips tonight as eight teams battle for the final four seeds of the playoffs and the right to take power at the top of each conference in the first round of the playoffs. When we’m ready for action, here’s a big question for each of the play-offs that begin in Brooklyn:

Can Cleveland score enough to keep up with KD and Kyrie?

The Cavaliers rose to the top half of the East before the All-Star break on the strength of an elite defense led by inner duo Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen. Rookie of the Year hopes will be in line for Brooklyn, returning from an ankle injury in time for the final two games of the regular season; ex-Net Allen, do not want tohowever, while continuing to work his way back from a broken finger.

Cleveland’s defense has stalled since Allen fell on March 6th. Prior to his injury, the Cavs allowed only 107.5 points per game. 100 holdings, but they have conceded 118.7 points per. 100 pages. It does not bode well for their chances of resisting a Brooklyn offensive that has been just outside the NBA’s top 10 since Kyrie Irving returned to full-time play and has burned opponents in the seams. 124.5 points pr. 100-a character just as far above Utah’s league-leading offensive rating as the Jazz are above the 23rd-ranked Lakers – with both Irving and Kevin Durant on the field.

If Cleveland cannot strike down the Nets, it will have to fight fire with fire. It’s not their strong point (only 19th in points scored per possession), but it’s not outside the realm of opportunity either. The Cavs have scored above average in each of their last two meetings against Brooklyn and have several shooters who are capable of getting hot and putting up skewed numbers if the Nets defense is not on the right track.

All eyes will be on point guard Darius Garland, a first-time All-Star in his first post-season competition, who has averaged 25.3 points and eight assists per game. match against Brooklyn this season. However, you would expect the Nets to tailor their coverage to force the ball out of his hands, which would require other Cavs to step forward and make shots; Lauri Markkanen, who shot 38.5 percent from 3-point land in Cleveland victories this season, and only 32.6 percent from distance in losses, could be a bell. So could Kevin Love, who is fresh on putting 32 and 10 in just 15 minutes in Cleveland’s season finale and has the benefits of punishing Brooklyn by both keeping his distance between the floor and knocking the glass; The Nets have been one of the league’s worst defensive rebound teams all season, themselves after adds Andre Drummond at the trade deadline. (I also wanted to keep an eye on Cedi Osman. The swingman’s minutes have grown and slowed down late in the season, but he had nine games on 20 or more points off the bench this season and a dozen with four or more 3s.)

Without Allen, who averaged career highs of 16.1 points and 10.8 rebounds per game. battle at 67.7 percent shooting as one of the NBA’s leading pick-and-roll finishers, Cleveland’s best bet may be to curse the torpedoes and increase the variance. Look for Garland, Love, Markkanen and everyone else in wine and gold just to let it fly.

Can KAT be the best player on the floor against Clips?

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Karl-Anthony Towns has had a phenomenal campaign to lead the Timberwolves back over .500 and to the brink of the playoffs, but the Clippers gave him absolute fits in three meetings earlier in the season. Ty Lue mixed his coverage at the All-Star Center and showed him a bit of everything: just one-on-one with Ivica Zubac or Isaiah Hartenstein, coverage across matches with a faster, more ranking defender (often Nicolas Batum or Terance Mann) pressed up on him at the perimeter, some zone coverage, plenty of fronts in the post and a steady diet of double teams coming from all angles.

It worked: LA kept the Towns at just 15.3 points per game. match in these 16-to-38-shootouts, including a long-range 6-to-18 mark, with more turnovers (nine) than assists (seven). Clips won all three games with double digits, including two with 20 plus; they surpassed Minnesota with 51 points in 100 minutes with Towns on the floor.

However, there is some good news: All three of those games came in the first month of the season before Minnesota found out. The Wolves boasted the West’s fourth-best record and the NBA’s fifth-best net rating after Jan. 1, driven by the league’s No. 1 offense – a unit led by Towns, which averaged 24.6 points, 10.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game. He has been brilliant as the focal point of Minnesota’s attack. Short-circuiting his game by throwing the kitchen sink after him was perhaps not as easy as it was back in early November, when he and the Wolves were still trying to figure out who they were; now his confidence is at a record high.

Play him right on the edge now, and risk being dusted by a player who leads all centers in points scored per. fight outside is driven. Zoning up may not be such an option against a Minnesota team that takes and makes the most 3s in the NBA and has a rotation full of role players – Patrick Beverley, Malik Beasley, Taurean Prince, Jaylen Nowell, Jordan McLaughlin, et al . -who have been hitting their long balls for several months now. Force the ball out of KAT’s hands to get someone else to hit you, and D’Angelo Russell (a top-12 scorer in times of crisis this season) and Anthony Edwards (whose delicate knees looked right friggin ‘OK in his last full game) is perhaps only too happy to commit.

The Clips enter the play-offs on a hot streak and have won four of five since Paul George’s return to the lineup; he shoots fiery 52.5 percent from deep since he returned (though, perhaps worryingly, only 32.5 percent inde arc) and Los Angeles surpasses opponents with 21.8 points pr. 100 with the two-way star swingman on the floor. Lue bets on the combination of a solid, versatile defense and George’s ability to control the game – draws defensive attention to play for others and takes the ball to the box and makes hard controversial shots when needed – to carry the Clips. Minnesota can rely on a similar formula; it just needs Towns to be who he’s been for most of this year, and does not who he was against LA in the beginning.

Who controls the pace of the game: Hawks or Hornets?

The Ninth and 10th frogs in the East – owners of two of the NBA’s top five attacks since the All-Star break – go as their point guards go. Matchup between them probably will too.

Trae Young is a watchmaker, a meticulous craftsman who likes to explore his options and embark on carefully dismantling fortifications. As such, his Hawks rank just below the middle of the pack in the average length of their offensive possessions, according to Inpredictable; close to the league average in the proportion of their games coming on the halfway line, according to Cleaning the Glass; and no. 1 with a ball in points scored per. play on the half court, which is a feature of Young’s incomparable ability to find the pressure point in a set defense and push until it calls uncle.

LaMelo Ball, on the other hand, is a neon yellow Lamborghini built to move smoothly at maximum speed and to attract maximum attention while doing so. As such, his Hornets boast the NBA’s fourth-fastest average offensive possession and its third-largest share of games coming into the transition and rank. 1 with one ball in points per. possession added through transition play – a feature of Balls unique gift to go 0-to-100 and chase early attacks and highlights on every possible occasion.

Small-ball Charlotte is a below-average half-court defense team that lacks top-flight point-of-attack defenders to throw at Young. Atlanta is the NBA’s second worst transition defensive team and lacks the athletics to get to a track meet. Only four teams force turnover more often than the Hornets; none commits oneself turnover less often than Hawks.

It’s a true “styles make fights” form with two of the league’s most telegene young haymakers – a player who has already proven his bona fides during the Eastern Conference final, and a player who is eager to follow troop after earning his first All-Star nod this season. Whoever can set the pace and rules of engagement will set his team up to survive and advance.

How much can Brandon Ingram give New Orleans?

Ingram has carried out Yoman’s work to lift New Orleans out of hibernation from its disastrous 3-16 start in the midst of despair over what turned into a lost season for injured superstar Zion Williamson. His 3-point shooting dropped from his 2020 All-Star levels as the defense came in on him, but Ingram played the best all-around ball of his career this season with an average of just under 23 points, six rebounds and six assists per . while flourishing as a primary playmaker on a team that needed him to set the table:

He’s been the Pelicans’ pacemaker all season: They’re 29-26 (a 43-game winning streak in an entire season) when he plays and 7-20 (a 21-win cut) when he does not, and they go from outcompete opponents by 3.3 points per. 100 when he is on the field (equivalent to the 76ers’ net rating for the entire season) to sheep overscored by 7.4 points per. 100 when he is not (which would come into play just above the stamps). That’s why it’s a big thing that a pre-stretched right hind thigh has limited him to just five games over the last five weeks… and why it’s a big thing that Pelicans coach Willie Green told reporters that the plan is for Ingram to be available on Wednesday.

If Ingram is close to 100 percent, Spurs will have to deal with two first scorers and shooters. The Pelicans have scored 119.5 points per game. 100 with Ingram and mid-season acquisition CJ McCollum on the floor together, an offensive efficiency that would have led the league this season. They have also earned points for elite courses since the trade deadline, with Ingram playing without McCollum, and vice versa. However, they have struggled fiercely when none of them are on the field – stretches that Green cannot avoid when Ingram is in streetwear, but which he can minimize when he has both of his best playmakers at his disposal.

Saint Anthony do has options for throwing at both Ingram and McCollum, combining size, length and athletics: All-Star point guard / steal-and-deflection magnet Dejounte Murray, 3-and-D es Devin Vassell, changeable combo barrels Keldon Johnson, Josh Richardson, and Lonnie Walker IV and rookie Josh Primo. But both Ingram (who averaged 24.5 points and 5.5 assists in two meetings with Spurs this season) and McCollum (29.3 points and 4.3 assists on 52/36/91 shooting in three games against San Antonio) have seemed comfortable getting into their offensive against these opportunities individually. If Ingram is good at walking and can quickly fall back into the rhythm he and McCollum found after the trade deadline, New Orleans could have too much firepower for Spurs – 17th in attack since the All-Star break, and downright awful when Murray is gone. the floor – to match.

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