Which NBA teams advance after Tuesday’s playoffs?

The Cavs and Nets are scheduled to face off tomorrow.

The Cavs and Nets are scheduled to face off tomorrow.
Photo: Getty Images

It’s time for the play-in tournament, and now that we know all the participants, let’s take a look at day one, who will be the seven-to-eight seed in each conference. We have some intriguing clashes here and two teams that weren’t supposed to deal with the play-in when the season started in October.

The play-in tournament has already produced some great memories in its short history, like Lebron James versus Steph Curry in game seven-eight during last year’s play-in. This was the game where James hit all three winners upon seeing andree rims. This year’s tournament could also produce magic on day one.

Game 1: #8 Cleveland vs. #7 Brooklyn

This battle for the No. 7 seed in the East should be close all the way. It’s been a long time now, but Jarrett Allen and Caris LeVert were Brooklyn Nets last season. Most players are usually excited to beat the team that traded them, no matter how long. The fact that a win over the Nets could play a part in their demise this season should be extra motivation for Allen and LeVert.

All the motivation in the world probably won’t be enough to get the Cavs past the Nets that day. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving will be too much for this young Cavs team, who will fight back but ultimately won’t have enough firepower to match Brooklyn in this scenario. I can see this is a game where KD and Kyrie Go for more than 35 points each. Both players know they need big performances and can’t lose this game.

Aside from Rajon Rondo and Kevin Love, it’s a fairly young and inexperienced team in Cleveland. Love and Rondo will have to dig deep into their bag of tricks to help the Cavs pass the Nets in this game. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but a Nets loss would be surprising. One advantage the Cavs have over the Nets is in the frontcourt. And this is a significant advantage.

The Cavs frontcourt is close to 7 feet all-around with Allen, Lauri Markkanen and Evan Mobley. Mobley is in a position where most of the top three draft picks typically don’t find themselves in their rookie season. That’s playing meaningful games in April. It may not go much further, but this year has been a great start for this young formation.

I have the Nets winning this game and facing the Boston Celtics in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. The storm of criticism that would descend on Brooklyn if they lost this game is something Durant and Irving want to avoid.

Winner: Brooklyn Nets

Game 2: #8 Los Angeles Clippers vs. #7 Minnesota

In the Western Conference, the Clippers, led by Paul George, are the team that none of the top seeds want to face in the first round. George averaged 22.5 points per game over his last four games when he returned to the lineup after injury. And let’s be honest, the Clippers aren’t your regular playoff seed.

Prior to PG’s fall in December, the Clippers trailed in fourth and fifth place for the first two months of the season. They also recently picked up Norman Powell, added Reggie Jackson and the other cast members. You now have a formidable team heading to the playoffs.

Minnesota had a great season with Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards, D’Angelo Russell and Malik Beasley as lead players. They are three former lottery draft picks and another first-round talent. It’s time for this team to step up and improve their record. The Timberwolves won their most games (46) since 2018. The excuse that Minnesota is “young” won’t fly too long, so stepping out and surprising this veteran Clippers team would be a great way to get into the playoffs.

Minnesota’s big guns can’t get stage fright playing in a nationally televised standalone game with a playoff shot on the line. The Twolves will need more than 20 points each from their three young stars, Towns, Edwards and Russell, Beasley also adding his 12 to 15 points. Minnesota needs maximum effort from everyone who touches the ground in this game. Defeating the Clippers would be an amazing way to let the league know they’re here to stay.

There’s not a ton of pressure for the Clippers as no one expected much from them anyway once George got injured, and Kawhi Leonard was already recovering from ACL surgery. Whatever the Clippers accomplish in the playoffs is gravy. I see the Clippers winning this game against the Twolves. Then I’ll take the Clippers in seven games above the Grizzlies in the first round. Yeah, I call my shot.

Winner: LA Clippers

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