With the addition of Play-in games In the 2021 NBA playoffs, the seeding scramble is wilder – and more important – than ever, with almost every game on the track with a significant impact on the postseason.
Here is a breakdown of all the major Friday night games and what they mean for sowingand a look at what the play-in matchups would be like if the season ended today:
What it means for the Sixers: Ugly wins count just as much as nice ones in the NBA – which is good for the Eastern leaders Philadelphia 76erswho hit them New Orleans Pelicans in about the ugliest way Friday night.
But that won’t bother the Sixers – or their fans – too much, as the win brought Philadelphia closer to victory to secure their first overall seed in the playoffs in the east.
Philadelphia now has a magic number of three to win the # 1 seed. Any combination of two Philly wins and Brooklyn losses allows the Sixers to hold their own before the Nets, while any combination of three Philly wins and Milwaukee losses allows the Sixers to land before the Bucks.
Losing the Pelicans would have been a potentially catastrophic own goal for Philly since New Orleans would have waived it Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram. Ultimately, however, another dominant performance by Joel Embiid (37 points and 13 rebounds) were just enough to secure the Sixers’ 46th win of the season and bring them one step closer to winning the Eastern Conference through the Wells Fargo Center. – Tim Bontemps
What it means for the pelicans: The greatest success for the Pelicans’ playoff hopes took place hours before the start on Friday evening. Shortly before the game started, New Orleans announced that Williamson would be out indefinitely due to a broken ring finger on his left hand – his shooting hand.
But when the game started it was evident that the Pelicans missed their two leaders as Ingram fell out with a sprained left ankle.
The loss puts the pelicans in the 10th seed of the west and makes bringing in the tournament much more difficult. They are now 2.5 games behind Spurs and have five more games to go. New Orleans has four more games on this road trip before it ends with that Los Angeles Lakers.
If Friday’s game is a clue, the pelicans could get into trouble in close matches without their keepers. It would help if they could get guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker back from an ankle sprain. He was questionable as he went into the game on Friday before he was scratched before the tip. – Andrew Lopez
What it means for both teams: After a disastrous performance in Chicago on Friday night, the Boston Celtics stare at play-in tournament possibly in 10 days.
Boston’s loss to the Bulls put the Celtics in seventh place in the east and only adds to the drama of the critical Boston Games against the Bulls intense heat – now a game before the Celtics – on Sunday and Tuesday. The Celtics won the first meeting of the season between the two teams, which means that a win in either of those two games would give them the tiebreaker over Miami.
However, the Celtics have to be way better than they were on Friday if they are to stand a chance in these games. While it was easy to see Evan Fournier get started (17 points in 7v11 shooting), the Celtics alongside Fournier and Kemba Walker (33 points) looked lifeless. Play without Jaylen Brown and Robert Williams III hurts – Brown, with a sprained ankle, should be back for Sunday’s game. Williams, who walks with lawn toes, is less sure – but this team should have had enough to beat a Bulls team on tired legs without them.
The Chicago win drew the Bulls within three games of the Washington Wizards to play with five. While Chicago holds the tiebreaker in hand and gives it the appearance of a chance, anything but running around the table is sure to mean the end of the Bulls’ playoff chances. – Bontemps
What it means for the Mavs: The Mavericks retained sole ownership of fifth place in the west by cruising to a victory over the Cavaliers. The .500 Grizzlies are the only opponent on the Dallas regular season schedule that doesn’t have a record loss. Therefore, the chances for the Mavs to stay out of the play-in tournament are good.
Luka Doncic drives down the alley and drops the swimmer, plus the foul.
Luka Doncic and Mark Cuban were among the most notable critics of the play-in concept – though Cuban was part of the Board of Governors’ unanimous vote to approve it – but Mavs coach Rick Carlisle is more diplomatic, saying it piqued interest and increased the importance of games in the late season.
“If you find yourself in a situation where you are playing in a play-in tournament it will be a great experience,” Carlisle said ahead of the game on Friday. “You have to see it that way.
“Well, that means everyone tries to avoid it. Everyone wants that – I don’t know what they’ll call it in the future – that guaranteed playoff position, one through six. But look, my attitude. When it’s there, you have to love it and do your best to avoid it. ” – Tim MacMahon
What it means for both teams: In a crucial game in the fight to avoid the warm-up tournament in the Western Conference, the Portland Trail Blazer not just a game before the moves Los Angeles Lakers in the overall standings with the 106-101 win on Friday, but also won the head-to-head tiebreaker by winning the season series 2-1.
Play without Lebron James For the third straight year, the Lakers had the opportunity to tie the game, though Kyle Kuzma got an open 3-hand in transition with 42.9 seconds remaining. But Kuzma’s shot caught Eisen – he missed all six of his 3-point attempts that evening – and the Blazers took their free throws to hold on.
With Portland now holding the tiebreaker, the Lakers will have to beat them by two wins in the remaining six games to stay ahead of the standings. The Lakers also dropped two games back from No. 5 Dallas. As a result, ESPN’s Basketball Power Index now offers defending champions a 71% chance of finishing seventh and getting back to the playoffs through the play-in tournament, while the Blazers set the favorites for sixth seed. – Kevin Pelton
Play-in matchups after Friday’s games
Play-in games will take place May 18-21
Game 1: No. 8 Charlotte at No. 7 Boston – Winner is No. 7 in the playoffs
Game 2: No. 10 Washington at No. 9 Indiana – Winner continues in play-in; Loser is eliminated
Game 3: Indiana / Washington winner at Boston / Charlotte loser – winner is number 8 in the playoffs
Game 1: No. 8 Golden State at No. 7 Los Angeles Lakers – Winner is No. 7 seed in playoffs
Game 2: # 10 San Antonio at # 9 Memphis – Winner Continues Play-In; Loser is eliminated
Game 3: Memphis / San Antonio Winner at Lakers / Golden State Loser – Winner is number 8 in the playoffs
The most important games on Saturday
Nets at Nuggets, 10 p.m. ET
Wizard at Pacers, 7 p.m. ET
Pistons at Sixers, 7 p.m. ET
Thunder in Warriors, 10 p.m. ET
Spurs at Blazers, 10 p.m. ET