The NBA’s new play-in tournament has plenty of fans and critics, but it has created a lot of compelling races as the season heads into its final day.
There’s suddenly a huge difference between sixth place and seventh, as the top six teams in each conference get nearly a week to rest while the teams in the tournament battle for playoff spots. The defending champion Lakers find themselves in seventh place in the West right now and need a win over the Pelicans tonight coupled with a Trail Blazers loss to the Nuggets to avoid the tournament.
The seventh and eighth teams in each conference will meet in the first round, while team No. 9 will face team No. 10. The winner of the 7-8 game will earn a playoff berth, while the loser of the 9-10 game will be eliminated. The other two teams will play for the final spot in each conference.
The scenario sets up several games with high stakes on the last day of the season. The Grizzlies and Warriors will meet this afternoon in Memphis with identical 38-33 records and the eighth seed on the line. In the East, the Hornets, Wizards and Pacers are all tied at 33-38. Washington hosts Charlotte today with the winner claiming the eighth seed and the loser likely falling to 10th.
No matter how the races end up, the tournament will start Tuesday night with both Eastern games, followed Wednesday by the two Western contests. The games to decide the final playoff spots will take place Thursday in the East and Friday for the West.
Commissioner Adam Silver has favored this format for years as a way to add excitement and unpredictability to the postseason. Some prominent league voices, including LeBron James and Mark Cuban, have criticized the idea, especially in a year with a condensed scheduled.
We want to get your opinion. Has the play-in tournament livened up the playoff races? Should the league keep the current format, modify it or get rid of it altogether? Please leave your responses in the comments section.