The NBA’s 2021 play-in tournament will tip off on Tuesday night, when the No. 9 Pacers face the No. 10 Hornets in Indiana, followed by the No. 7 Celtics hosting the No. 8 Wizards in Boston.
By the end of the night, one team – either Boston or Washington – will have secured the No. 7 seed, earning a first-round date with the Nets. And one team – either Indiana or Charlotte – will be eliminated from postseason contention altogether.
The Pacers/Hornets matchup would be a little more intriguing if both teams were at full strength. Unfortunately, the Pacers will be without one of their top scorers (T.J. Warren) and are expected to be missing their defensive anchor (Myles Turner) as well. The Hornets, meanwhile, have gotten a little healthier as of late, but still don’t have their $120MM man (Gordon Hayward) available.
That doesn’t mean Indiana and Charlotte can’t play an entertaining game though. LaMelo Ball will be looking to put the finishing touches on a Rookie of the Year caliber season, while Nate Bjorkgren may be coaching for his job. Neither team will want its season to come to an end on Tuesday.
As for the headlining contest of the night, the fact that the Wizards are even involved in this game is pretty incredible. Washington started off the season with a 6-17 record and was 17-32 in early April. Since then, the team has reeled off 17 wins in 23 games, securing the No. 8 spot for the play-in tournament and looking a whole lot more dangerous as of late than the reeling Celtics.
The Celtics made the Eastern Conference Finals last season and entered the year with the aspirations of making another deep playoff run. It has been an up-and-down season in Boston though, and it has been trending down as of late. The C’s finished the season by losing nine of their last 13 games, and their only four wins in that stretch came against sub-.500 teams. With Jaylen Brown out for the season, the club will be shorthanded as it looks to secure a playoff spot.
Still, while the Wizards aren’t missing any top players, Bradley Beal continues to deal with a hamstring injury and isn’t at 100% entering the play-in tournament, as Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN writes. If the Eastern Conference’s leading scorer doesn’t look like his usual self, it may be an uphill battle for the Wizards to pick up a win in Boston.
We want to know what you think. Which teams will win the two Eastern Conference play-in games on Tuesday? Make your picks in the polls below, then head to the comment section to weigh in on which club will win Thursday’s play-in game to claim the No. 8 seed.
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Trade Rumors app users, click here to vote on Celtics/Wizards.