Preview: Race for a playoff spot

The NBA play-in tournament is set to start on May 18, which has a game 7 feel to it.

By Elvin Gonzalez, Staff Writer

The NBA play-in tournament begins on Tuesday, May 18 and runs until May 21, giving both eastern and western conferences seeds 7 to 10 a chance to compete for a playoff spot.

CBS Sports reports the play-in tournament is a new way for the league to determine the eight playoff teams from each conference. A version of the idea was implemented last summer during the restart in the bubble, but this season will be the first time the full play-in tournament is in use; it could also be the last. As it stands, the idea was only approved by the league's Board of Governors for this season. Assuming there are no major problems, it will likely remain in place moving forward, but that is not a guarantee as of now.

Matt Barnes, a former NBA player on ESPN’s show The Jump, said he loves the play-in games from a fan’s perspective but hates it from a players perspective.

“I have been a 7 or 8 seed, you bust your tail to get to that spot and think okay, you can relax and then focus on your series,” said Barnes. “Now you’ve got to worry about this play-in game.”

Despite the play-in tournament being great for fans — which gives them more basketball to watch and their favorite team having a chance to get a playoff spot — players around the league had voiced their frustration with the new format.

Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic told ESPN after a loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on April 12, "You play 72 games to get into the playoffs, then maybe you lose two in a row and you're out of the playoffs. So I don't see the point of that."

For the eastern conference, the No. 7 seed Boston Celtics will host 8 seed Washington Wizards. The winner of that game will clinch the 7 seed and while the 8 seed will play the winner of the No. 9 seed — Indiana Pacers or the 10 seed Charlotte Hornets. The winner of the final play-in game will clinch the final playoff spot.

The Los Angeles Lakers, who have been up and down the standings, saw most of their players on the injury report. They ended their season on a five-game winning streak to end the condensed 72 game regular season. They played their starters for the final two games of the regular season against the New Orleans Pelicans and the Pacers in hopes to avoid the Play-In Tournament.

The No. 7 seed Lakers will face the 8 seed Golden State Warriors to fight for the 7 spot, and the loser will play the winner of the contest between the No. 9 seed Memphis Grizzlies and the No. 10 seed San Antonio Spurs. The final game of the play-in will determine who will get the eighth and final playoff spot.

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