The long and arduous quest to reach the NBA postseason is over and now, the game changes.
We all know that winning to get here is one thing, but winning from here on out becomes much more difficult. Teams have endured the grind to this point, but some still need to earn it. In the 2020-2021 season, the NBA implemented the Play-in tournament for the final four teams in. It is an eight-team tournament for seeding 7-10.
Once that is completed, it goes back to the seven-game series we all know and love. So, who is in and who do they play? It is time to break down the best matchups of the Play-In and Round One! Here we go!
The Best Matchups of the NBA Play-In and Round One of the NBA Playoffs
Play-In Game 2: Minnesota Timberwolves @ Los Angeles Lakers
We have to start off with one of the higher profile matchups within the Play-In tournament, the Lakers vs the T-Wolves.
This game is loaded with stars like LeBron James and Anthony Davis for the Lakers, and Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards for the Wolves. The winner of this game will give us a great opponent for the Memphis Grizzlies in Round One, the loser will take on the loser of the other West Play-In between the New Orleans Pelicans and the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Will the NBA’s scoring king and his All-Star Robin cruise to the next round against the Grizzlies, or will they be stifled by the length and athleticism of the Timberwolves? Eastern time zone fans will need to be awake past their bedtime, this has a 10:30 pm eastern start!
Western Conference Round 1: Sacramento Kings vs Golden State Warriors
If you have paid any attention to the NBA this year, then you have likely heard about the defending champion Warriors road game woes.
They are a staggering 11-30 on the road and come into this series as the lower seed, meaning the Kings have the home-court advantage this series. Now, it is important to note that the Warriors obviously have the decided advantage with playoff and championship experience. The last time the Kings won a playoff series was 2004!
They have a fun core of ascending stars such as De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis, but will this be enough to dethrone a dynasty? Maybe if it were one game, the Warriors would be in trouble, but can you bet against Golden State in a seven-game series?
Western Conference Round 1: Los Angeles Clippers vs Phoenix Suns
Another game on tap that is absolutely loaded with star power is the Clippers vs Suns series. This game features future Hall of Fame players as well as three of the top 12 players in the entire league.
Kevin Durant for the Suns is possibly a top two or three player and the duo of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard are ballers in their own right. Factor in Devin Booker and Chris Paul additionally for the Suns and we have some fun ball to be played!
There is a healthy bit of storyline in this game as well. Since his purchase of the Clippers in 2014, Steve Ballmer has been consistent in his expectation of a Championship, but sadly, has fallen short and has even seen the OTHER LA team win one.
Is this the last year Leonard and Paul combine forces in an attempt to win one? The Suns have been very close as well, but ultimately fell short to a Giannis-led Bucks team in the Finals. Now, they’ve acquired Durant and added to a loaded starting roster that includes Paul, Booker, and Ayton. Is this the breakthrough year for the Suns?
Eastern Conference Round 1: Cleveland Cavaliers vs New York Knicks
Let’s face it, when the Knicks are good, the world watches.
This year, the Knicks look to improve upon their recent playoff woes and are attempting a deep run, but have to fend off a feisty Cavaliers team that features a rejuvenated Donovan Mitchell and ascending star Darius Garland. The Cavaliers have something to prove here. They have not won a playoff series without LeBron James on their roster since 1997! Will they get back to the glory days with King James, or is this just a nice achievement for a team a few pieces away from success?
Meanwhile, in the concrete jungle, Julius Randle is looking for the respect of a #1 player in this league but will have to prove to the world that he has the shoulders that are required to carry a franchise, which hasn’t been done by many people. Factor in the always-colorful New York Media and spotlight, this is an additional load to bear! This will be a fun back-and-forth series you won’t want to miss!
Main Image: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports