The road to the championship is wide open: NPR


Darius Garland of the Cleveland Cavaliers drives to the basket during the game against the Brooklyn Nets on Friday. The league’s new format gives several teams a chance to get into the playoffs, while giving fans exciting exclusion matches to start the tournament.

Nathaniel S. Butler / NBAE via Getty Images


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Nathaniel S. Butler / NBAE via Getty Images


Darius Garland of the Cleveland Cavaliers drives to the basket during the game against the Brooklyn Nets on Friday. The league’s new format gives several teams a chance to get into the playoffs, while giving fans exciting exclusion matches to start the tournament.

Nathaniel S. Butler / NBAE via Getty Images

The NBA postseason is tipping Tuesday, and the race for the title is wide open with star-studded teams like the Los Angeles Lakers who have already been eliminated and major injuries that make it unclear who this year’s favorites may be.

Here’s everything you need to know.

What are play-in games?

The top teams in each of the Eastern and Western conferences are ranked from 1-10 based on their regular season records.

It used to be the top eight teams from each conference guaranteed to play a playoff series, but last year the NBA shook up the old format by introducing a play-in tournament that has teams 7-10 complete in a series of single-elimination matches for the last two playoff spots in their respective conferences.

For the 7th and 8th ranked teams, it is “win and you are in”, where the loser of that game plays the winner of a match between teams ranked 9th and 10th.

While it may sound a bit complicated, the league’s new format gives several teams a chance to get into the playoffs, while giving fans exciting elimination matches to kick-start the tournament.

The first play-in matches will be on Tuesday and Wednesday, with Friday being the last opportunity for four teams to join.

The Phoenix Suns, Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Heat and Boston Celtics do not know their opponents in the first round before the end of Friday’s games.

Still confused? Here is a brief overview of who is playing whom.

Which teams play in the Eastern Conference, and who can they meet?


Kevin Durant of the Brooklyn Nets along with Kyrie Irving will make the team formidable opponents.

Sarah Bull / Getty Images


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Sarah Bull / Getty Images


Kevin Durant of the Brooklyn Nets along with Kyrie Irving will make the team formidable opponents.

Sarah Bull / Getty Images

The Cleveland Cavaliers will play the Brooklyn Nets in New York City in the first game of the tournament Tuesday night, with the winner advancing to the Boston Celtics in the first round.

Cleveland has struggled with injuries this season, with Ricky Rubio tearing his ACL before being traded to the Indiana Pacers, and Collin Sexton appears to be out for the rest of the season, no matter how deep the Cavs go. All-Star Jarrett Allen has also been on the sidelines for the past month with a finger fracture with head coach JB Bickerstaff unsure when the star center could return.

They will face a formidable Brooklyn Nets team that already beat them less than a week ago and feature superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

The Nets have been hampered most of the season with star player Kyrie Irving, who was only recently allowed to play matches at home after refusing to be vaccinated for COVID-19. Irving was without a doubt the highest-profile athlete affected by vaccine mandates.

If the Nets are able to make it through this week’s play-in matches, there’s optimism that guard Ben Simmons, who was traded from Philadelphia but has been out of injury, could also show up in the first round of the NBA. the playoffs.

The loser of Tuesday’s match will face the winner of Wednesday’s do-or-die match between the Atlanta Hawks and Charlotte Hornets for Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot.

Atlanta will be hoping to repeat last season’s surprising playoff run as they advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals. They were later defeated by final NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks.

Wednesday’s matchup will feature two of the league’s young stars, with Atlanta’s 23-year-old Trae Young becomes one of only two players to lead the league in total points and total assists.

Charlotte will hope that second-year star LaMelo Ball will play a key role in the match, as this year she has become the fourth-youngest player to play the All-Star game in history, behind Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Magic Johnson.

The number one seeded Miami Heat must play the winner of Friday’s game.

What happens to Western Conference play-in games?

The Los Angeles Clippers look like a team that could make it to this year’s NBA Finals after losing star player Paul George for most of the season with a torn ligament in his shooting elbow. But George is back and must face the Minnesota Timberwolves Tuesday night at 6 p.m. 21:30 ET.

George has not been the only Clippers star to miss playing time due to an injury.

The team will hope that Kawhi Leonard, the two-time final MVP, will be healthy enough to play for the first time since tearing his ACL in June.

While it does not appear that he will participate in this week’s play-in match, there is hope that if the team runs a turn, he may be back. And with both George and Leonard healthy, the Clippers could make other teams nervous.

The winner between LA and Minnesota advances to the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round this weekend.

The West’s single elimination game between the New Orleans Pelicans and the San Antonio Spurs tips at 9:30 PM ET on Wednesday. The Spurs have missed the playoffs for the past two seasons after appearing each year between 1998 and 2019. The team won five NBA championships during that stretch.

The winner must face the loser of Tuesday night’s LA vs. Minnesota matchup.

What about the other teams in the West?


Chris Paul of the Phoenix Suns hopes to return to the NBA Finals for only the second time in his career.

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Chris Paul of the Phoenix Suns hopes to return to the NBA Finals for only the second time in his career.

Ezra Shaw / Getty Images

Of all the teams already guaranteed a place in the playoffs, one of the hottest in the West must be the Phoenix Suns, led by Devin Booker and Chris Paul, who had the league’s best record of the regular season at 64-18.

Paul, who turns 37 next month, will hope to return to the NBA Finals for only the second time in his career. Last year’s finals, widely regarded as one of the best point guards in the game, were Paul’s first shot at a championship before being defeated by the Milwaukee Bucks. Paul missed 15 games at the end of the regular season with a broken thumb.

It will not be easy for Phoenix to return to the NBA Finals even if Paul comes back healthy. The Western Conference features a number of tough opponents looking for their own shot at the title.

The Dallas Mavericks will lean on their star player Luka Dončić, who left Sunday’s game early with a strain in his left calf as they face the Utah Jazz. While the Golden State Warriors, returning to the playoffs for the first time since losing to the Toronto Raptors in the NBA Finals in 2019, will take on Nikola Jokić and the Denver Nuggets.

Last season’s MVP, Jokić appears to be the frontrunner for the award again this season after becoming the first player in NBA history with 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 500 assists in a season.

Another team to keep an eye on is the Memphis Grizzlies and their electric young star Ja Morant. The Grizzlies must face the winner of LA and Minnesota.

Who is leading in the east?

The NBA’s Eastern Conference looks wide open, with all the top-10 teams ending the season within 10 games in a row.

The Miami Heat locked the No. 1 seed with Boston, Milwaukee and Philadelphia hot in their heels, and each ended the regular season with a record of 51-31.

Defending champion Milwaukee Bucks will host the Chicago Bulls in the first round, with star player Giannis Antetokounmpo considering a possible third league MVP.

Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid is another name who is regularly brought up with Antetokounmpo and Jokić as a possible MVP candidate. Embiid was born in Cameroon and recently became the first international player to win an NBA scoring title with an average of 30.6 points per game. match this season.

Philadelphia must face the Toronto Raptors and this year’s possible rookie Scottie Barnes in the first round of the playoffs. The Sixers will be a bit of a disadvantage during their road games as Matisse Thybulle does not meet Canada’s vaccination requirements and will not be allowed to play.

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