As regular season ends, NBA’s play-in games take shape

The Eastern Conference matchups are set

The NBA’s new play-in tournament begins on Tuesday night, and it took until the 146th and final day of this compressed season to determine who is going where for the playoffs.

The Eastern Conference matchups are set: No. 7 Boston will play host to No. 8 Washington, and No. 9 Indiana will play host to No. 10 Charlotte in the NBA’s first elimination game this season. Both of those games are Tuesday.

Read More: NBA announces social justice award named after Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

The Boston-Washington winner goes straight to the playoffs as the East’s No. 7 seed; the loser of that game will play host to the Indiana-Charlotte winner on Thursday to determine the East’s No. 8 seed and who will face top-seeded Philadelphia in Round 1.

The Western Conference play-in games will be set depending on results later Sunday. Golden State, Memphis and San Antonio will all be in the play-in round there; either the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers or the Portland Trail Blazers will be the No. 7 seed for those games, with the West play-in contests starting Wednesday.

Getting to the No. 8 spot for the play-in round is a massive comeback story for the Wizards, who started the season 0-5 and 3-12, were shut down for two weeks in January for coronavirus-related issues, had to play 38 games in the season’s final 67 days to make up for all that lost time and were 17-32 early last month.

They’re 17-6 since, rallying from 16 points down to beat Charlotte on Sunday and with Russell Westbrook — the league’s all-time triple-double king — getting his 38th one of the season.

“Obviously, Washington’s rolling,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “They’re a heck of a basketball team. … They’re a handful. Tuesday night’s going to be one heck of a challenge.”

Kemba Walker #8 of the Boston Celtics passes the ball in front of Bradley Beal #3 and Rui Hachimura #8 of the Washington Wizards in the first half at Capital One Arena on February 14, 2021 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Meanwhile, New York — which was sent home after the regular season in each of the last seven years — not only is back in the playoffs but will open them at home. New York’s win over Boston locked the Knicks into the East’s No. 4 seed and a first-round matchup against No. 5 Atlanta.

Read More: LeBron James responds after bar refuses to play games until he’s expelled from NBA

That means reigning East champion Miami will open as the No. 6 seed. The Heat will open the playoffs at either Brooklyn or Milwaukee.

One other matter of importance was decided Sunday — the scoring title.

Bradley Beal scored 25 points for Washington and ended the season averaging 31.3 points per game. That meant Golden State’s Stephen Curry needed three points in the Warriors’ game against Memphis to ensure he finishes ahead of Beal, and he got there with two baskets in the opening quarter. The title-clincher was a short jumper with 3:24 left in the first, pushing his average to 31.32 points for the season.

It is Curry’s second scoring title, and he becomes just the second player age 33 or older to win one in NBA history. The other is Michael Jordan.

Have you subscribed to theGrio’s podcast “Dear Culture”? Download our newest episodes now!

TheGrio is now on Apple TV, Amazon Fire, and Roku. Download theGrio today!