With the addition of play-in games to the 2021 NBA playoffs, the seeding puzzle is wilder – and more important – than ever, as nearly every game on the track has a significant post-season impact.
Play-in matchups after Monday’s games
Play-in games will take place May 18-21
• How the play-in tournament works
• Current NBA rankings
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: Washington / Indiana 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: No. 10 San Antonio at No. 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
Here’s a breakdown of Monday’s key games and what the results mean for the sowing:
Memphis took their place in the play-in tournament with the win, but the battle for the sowing continues. The race for eighth place in the west – and the safety net of only having to win one of two games for the playoffs – could last until the last day of the regular season when Memphis and Golden State meet. The good thing for the Grizzlies is that they don’t have to leave the house until this match as they play against Dallas and two against Sacramento before the final.
The pelicans’ hopes for a tournament are now hanging by a thread. With three games left (Dallas, Golden State versus Los Angeles Lakers), New Orleans should win and hope that the San Antonio Spurs, who blew the goats on Monday, lose the rest of the game. Oh, and the pelicans still haven’t got Brandon Ingram (left ankle sprain) back and Zion Williamson (broken left ring finger) is out too. – Andrew Lopez
The Golden State Warriors put together one of their most complete games of the season on Monday night – and then almost watched it go away. The good news for the Warriors is that Stephen Curry showed up as usual when it mattered most in a 119-116 win over Utah Jazz. Curry finished the race with 36 points, including the 3-pointer 14.5 seconds ahead, which gave his team a lead they would not be without.
With the win, the Warriors got a place in the play-in and stayed half a game ahead of the Grizzlies for eighth place in the Western Conference. With the defeat, the Jazz are just one game ahead of the Phoenix Suns in the loss column for the top seed in the west.
“It’s great to tick a box,” said Warriors manager Steve Kerr of a play-in place. “And now we have to go ahead and try to finish as strong as possible. Obviously, Memphis is right with us and San Antonio is right behind us, so we have to keep winning.”
While the Warriors needed Curry’s late exploits again, unlike in recent months, it wasn’t just Curry who did the jazz damage. Curry’s teammates got involved offensively in a variety of ways, relieving the two-time MVP for much of the game. Jordan Poole finished the first quarter with 20 points, Kent Bazemore with 19 and Draymond Green with 10 points. Currys 36 set the tone as always, but it was important for the warriors to know they could win even on nights when Curry didn’t lay the entire team on their backs – at least until the end. – Nick Friedell
After a first quarter of 50 points, 12 3-pointers, it looked like the Trail Blazers were going to beat the Houston Rockets on Monday, but it took some time to get the job done. Wherever victory takes the blazers, you have the 6-Seed firmly under control in the west. They control their own destiny and while they are only one game better than the Lakers in the losing column, victory over Houston puts Portland in the lead in the profit column two.
With three games to go, Portland has to go 2-1 to guarantee the 6-seed, which of course means avoiding the break-in. But while Monday’s game wasn’t too much of a challenge, the final three will be. Portland goes to Utah, to Phoenix and closes at home against Denver – all teams with a certain motivation to end their season strong and safe. If the Blazers go 1-2 it means the Lakers could overtake them in 6th place with a 4-0 result.
The Blazers, who came to the rescue after a difficult situation a few weeks ago, are driving a winning streak in four games and have won eight of their last nine games. You are in control of your way forward, but it won’t be an easy end. – Royce Young
Russell Westbrook made history, but he couldn’t add the end of the storybook when he missed a 3-pointer in the end when he lost to the Atlanta Hawks.
The Hawks’ victory was great. It pulled Atlanta (38-31) half a game behind the Knicks for fourth place in the East and half a game before the Heat (37-31) for fifth place.
Washington (32-37) follows Indiana (32-36) by half a game for ninth place. The Wizards own the tiebreaker over the Pacers, but must play for at least one more game without Bradley Beal (thigh strain). And the next game is Wednesday in a rematch against the Hawks in Atlanta. – Ohm Youngmisuk
Indiana swapped places with the Wizards, moved up to 9th East, and reduced its magic number for winning a play-in berth to two with four games left.
The Pacers have a tough finale with home games against the Sixers, Bucks and Lakers before taking to the streets against Toronto.
The most important games on Tuesday
Nuggets at Hornets, 7 ET
Heat at Celtics, 7:30 ET
Clippers at Raptors, 7:30 ET
Sixers at Pacers, 8 ET
Nets at Bulls, 8 ET
Mavericks at Grizzlies, 8 ET
Magic at Bucks, 9 ET
Suns with Warriors, 10 ET
Knicks at Lakers, 10 ET