Which NBA teams advance after Tuesday’s play-in matches?

The Cavs and Nets are due to show up tomorrow.

The Cavs and Nets are due to show up tomorrow.
Photo: Getty Images

It’s play-in tournament time, and now that we know all the participants, let’s look at day one, which will be seven to eight seeds in each conference. We have exciting matchups here and two teams that were not expected to have to deal with play-in when the season started back in October.

The play-in tournament has already created some fond memories in its short history, as Lebron James vs. Steph Curry in the seven-eight game during last year’s play-in. It was the game where James hit the game-winning three while watching three rims. This year’s tournament could also produce magic on the first day.

Camp 1: Nr. 8 Cleveland at No. 7 Brooklyn

This battle for seed No. 7 in the East should be close throughout. It feels like a long time ago now, but Jarrett Allen and Caris LeVert were the Brooklyn Nets last season. Most players are usually hyped for any opportunity to beat the team that traded them, no matter how long it has been. The fact that a win over the Nets could play a role in their deaths this season should be extra motivation for Allen and LeVert.

All the motivation in the world will probably not be enough to get the Cavs past the Nets on this day. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving will be too much for this young Cavs team, which will fight but ultimately will not have enough firepower to compete with Brooklyn in this scenario. I can see that this is a game where KD and Kyrie get off for over 35 points each. Both players know they need great performance and can not lose this game.

Aside from Rajon Rondo and Kevin Love, this is a fairly young and inexperienced team in Cleveland. Love and Rondo will have to dig deep into their bag of tricks to help the Cavs get past the Nets in this game. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but a Nets loss would be surprising. An advantage that the Cavs have over the Nets is in the front line. And that is a significant advantage.

Cavs front line is close to 7 feet across the board with Allen, Lauri Markkanen and Evan Mobley. Mobley is in a position where most of the top three draft picks are not usually during their rookie season. It’s playing meaningful games in April. It may not go much further, but this year was an excellent start for this young roster.

I’ve got the Nets to win this game and advance to the Boston Celtics in the first round of the eastern conference playoffs. The firestorm of criticism that would hit Brooklyn if they were to lose this game is something Durant and Irving want to avoid.

Winner: Brooklyn Nets

Camp 2: Nr. 8 LA Clippers at No. 7 Minnesota

In the Western Conference, the Clippers, led by Paul George, are the team none of the top frogs want to face in the first round. George averaged 22.5 ppg over his last four games as he returned to the ranks after an injury. And let’s be honest, the Clippers are not your regular low seeded playoff seed.

Before PG fell in December, the Clippers hung around in fourth and fifth place for the first few months of the season. They also recently got Norman Powell back, added to Reggie Jackson and the other role players. Now you have a formidable team heading into the off-season.

Minnesota had a great season with Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards, D’Angelo Russell and Malik Beasley as their core players. Those are three previous high lottery draft picks and another talent in the first round. It’s time for this team to move up and improve their record. The Timberwolves have won their most games (46) since 2018. The excuse that Minnesota is “young” will not fly too much anymore, so getting out and surprising this veteran Clippers team would be a great way to get into the playoffs.

The big guns for Minnesota can not get stage fright by playing in an independent match on national television with a shot of the post-season at stake. The Twolves need 20 plus points each from their three young stars, Towns, Edwards and Russell, with Beasley also bringing in its 12-15 points. Minnesota needs maximum effort from everyone who touches the floor in this game. Defeating the Clippers would be an incredible way to tell the league that they have come to stay.

There is not a ton of pressure for the Clippers as no one expected much from them anyway when George first got injured and Kawhi Leonard was already out to recover after an ACL operation. Whatever the Clippers accomplish this postseason is gravy. I see the Clippers win this match against the Twolves. Then I take the Clippers in seven games about Grizzlies in the first round. Yep, I’m getting started.

Winner: LA Clippers

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