Poll: Who Will Win Wednesday’s Play-In Games?

When we polled Hoops Rumors readers on Tuesday’s play-in games 24 hours ago, nearly half the respondents predicted victories for both the Lakers and Warriors, with roughly 36.7% forecasting a Pelicans win and only about 13.9% picking both the Lakers and Kings.

But that latter scenario is the one that played out, as the Lakers escaped New Orleans with a narrow victory to secure the Western Conference’s No. 7 seed, while the Kings got some level of revenge for last year’s first-round playoff exit by dispatching Golden State in the No. 9 vs. 10 game.

The Pelicans will now host the Kings in Friday’s do-or-die play-in game for the West’s No. 8 seed, but in the meantime, we have a pair of Eastern Conference play-in games on tap for Wednesday night.

In the early game, the No. 8 Heat will visit Philadelphia and battle the No. 7 Sixers for the right to claim the seventh seed and a first-round matchup with New York.

The stakes are high — while either team would be a significant favorite at home in a play-in game on Friday, losing tonight would result in a best-case scenario of a first-round date with the Celtics, who had the NBA’s best record for nearly the entire season. The Sixers and Heat would presumably rather take their chances with the Knicks.

Both teams have some injuries to deal with entering Wednesday’s game. The 76ers will be missing De’Anthony Melton (back) and Robert Covington (knee), while the Heat will be without Josh Richardson (shoulder) and Terry Rozier (neck).

Sixers center Joel Embiid is listed on the injury report as questionable due to left knee injury recovery, but there’s no doubt he’ll suit up — whether or not he’ll be anywhere near 100% is an open question. Embiid has only played five games since returning from knee surgery, and while he scored at least 30 points in three of those outings, his knee seemed to be bothering him on Friday, forcing him to sit out Sunday’s regular season finale.

If Embiid looks like himself, it bodes well for the Sixers, who have a +10.3 net rating in the big man’s 1,309 minutes on the court this season and went 31-8 in the games he played.

On the other hand, the Heat showed last spring that they’re extremely comfortable playing as a lower seed on the road with their backs against the wall, though it’s worth noting that the Miami team that made it to the NBA Finals did lose its first play-in game. The Heat, whose 24-17 road record this season ranked second among Eastern teams, are currently listed as five-point underdogs, per BetOnline.ag.

In the late game, the No. 9 Bulls are three-point favorites at home against the No. 10 Hawks. It has been an up-and-down season for both teams, who haven’t given us much reason to believe that a deep playoff run is in the cards.

The Bulls had the NBA’s 19th-best offensive rating and 22nd-best defensive rating this season for an overall net rating of -1.7 (20th). They also have a lengthy injury report. Zach LaVine, Lonzo Ball, Patrick Williams, and Onuralp Bitim are out due to season-ending injuries, while Julian Phillips (right midfoot sprain) remains unavailable and Andre Drummond (left ankle sprain) and Ayo Dosunmu (right quad contusion) are considered questionable to suit up.

Still, Chicago will have DeMar DeRozan, Coby White, and Nikola Vucevic available to provide offensive firepower, while defensive ace Alex Caruso attempts to slow down Atlanta’s star backcourt.

Like Embiid in Philadelphia, Hawks leading scorer Trae Young only recently returned from a lengthy injury absence, appearing in the team’s final three regular season games after missing the previous 23 due to hand surgery. If he’s not in peak form, more offensive responsibilities will fall to fellow guards Dejounte Murray and Bogdan Bogdanovic.

The Hawks had the NBA’s 12th-best offense this season but ranked just 27th on defense and finished behind the Bulls in overall net rating, with a -2.0 mark (No. 21). They also have some key injury absences of their own, with Jalen Johnson (right ankle sprain), Onyeka Okongwu (left big toe sprain), and Saddiq Bey (torn ACL) all sidelined.

Given that the two teams look relatively evenly matched, it’s possible home-court advantage could be the difference for the Bulls. The Hawks went just 15-26 on the road this season.

We want to know what you think. Will it be the Sixers or Heat clinching their playoff berth today? Will it be the end of the road for the Bulls or the Hawks?

Make your Eastern Conference play-in picks in the poll below, then head to the comment section to weigh in with your thoughts!

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