Sunday marked the final day of the NBA regular season, which featured every single NBA team. Let’s recap some of the more important games quickly:
The Boston Celtics defeated the Memphis Grizzlies 139-110, with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown putting up big numbers. Both of these teams officially have the second seed in their respective conferences. It’s also worth nothing that John Konchar put up his first career triple-double for the Grizzlies.
The Brooklyn Nets outlasted the Indiana Pacers thanks to a triple-double from Kevin Durant and 35 points from Kyrie Irving. Andre Drummond also looked like his old self, dropping 20 points and 13 rebounds in only 19 minutes and 52 seconds of play. The win was needed for the Nets, as they now have home court advantage as the seventh seed in the play-in.
The Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Milwaukee Bucks 133-115, in large part due to Giannis Antetokounmpo sitting this one out. It also helped the Cavs that Jrue Holiday only played eight seconds of this game so that he could secure a $306,000 bonus for starting in 67 games. With his brothers’ minutes, Thanasis Antetokounmpo put up 27 points and 5 rebounds.
The Atlanta Hawks defeated the Houston Rockets 130-114, also securing home court advantage for their play-in spot. Trae Young had 28 points and 11 assists, Clint Capela had 18 points and 13 rebounds, and Danilo Gallinari put up 26 points. The Rockets did a good job keeping the game competitive before losing, as Jalen Green dropped 41 points on 53.8% shooting from the field.
The Orlando Magic defeated the Miami Heat, which sounds extremely impressive, until you realize that Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Kyle Lowry, Tyler Herro, Markieff Morris, and Dewayne Dedmon didn’t play. For what it’s worth, Victor Oladipo played his heart out, finishing with 40 points, 10 rebounds, and 7 assists.
The 76ers defeated the Detroit Pistons 118-106 without both James Harden and Joel Embiid. Both are resting before the playoffs, and Embiid, with the regular season finished, is our 2022 NBA Scoring Champ!
In other quick news, the Thunder got blown out by 50, Klay Thompson dropped 41 points in a 128-107 Warriors win, the Kings beat the Suns (don’t get too excited; Chris Paul, Devin Booker, and Deandre Ayton weren’t playing), and the Jazz beat the Blazers by 31.
Now, let’s look at our play-in matchups, starting with the Eastern Conference.
The Nets are going to win this game. That isn’t even a question in my mind. If Durant and Irving want to win, they will win. They’re both healthy, playing some of their best basketball, and up against a Cleveland team with no playoff or play-in experience.
It’s a bit tougher to determine who’s going to win this play-in matchup. Both of these teams are young and very talented. Both have star, ball-dominant point guards, who’s shot selection can be ill advised sometimes; however, the Hawks have more depth, a more experienced center, and home court advantage. In my mind, they have almost every conceivable advantage.
But I’m still going with the Hornets.
Why? you scream as I defy every point I just made. Well, for one, my predictions are only right half the time. Plus, upsets are bound to happen. Just look at Kentucky; they had every advantage in the NCAA Tournament, and still lost to the Peacocks in the first round. LaMelo, Miles Bridges, Terry Rozier, and P.J. Washington have all become much better players, and they lost in the play-in last year. This year I think they can pull it off against the Hawks.
Cavs/Hornets For 8th Seed
While I just said I’m going to defy all the odds and have the Hornets beat the Hawks, I still don’t think they’re good enough to beat All-Star Darius Garland, future Rookie of the Year Evan Mobley, Lauri Markkanen, Caris LeVert, Isaac Okoro, Rajon Rondo, Jarrett Allen, and Kevin Love (who somehow dropped 32 points and 10 rebounds in 14 minutes of play on Sunday). Cleveland is too much for Buzz City to handle right now.
Let’s look at the Western Conference:
I think the Timberwolves will win this matchup. For one, they have home court advantage, and I like how they have a more balanced attack. They have Karl-Anthony Towns at center, who is too much for anyone on the Clippers to handle. Anthony Edwards has come into his own this season, and Patrick Beverley can lock up any opposing guards. While the Clippers do have Paul George back, they don’t have Kawhi Leonard back just yet, and I don’t think they can handle the T-Wolves.
The Pelicans will easily win this one in my opinion. The Spurs have been trying to tank for the entire year, and don’t really seem to have an identity. While they likely won’t have Zion Williamson back, CJ McCollum has brought new life to this team. He’s faced much bigger challenges; I think he can lead the Pelicans past the Spurs.
This is a real toss up for me. However, if we look at the Clippers versus the Pelicans as a team, then I think the Clippers are in a better position to win this matchup. They’ll have gotten close, but the Pelicans will miss out on the 8th seed, and head back to the draft at the end of the lottery.
What do you think of my predictions? Let me know in the comments below, don’t forget to follow the NBA Blog, and as always, have an awesome day!