NBA Play-In Tournament: The Play-In Tournament will begin Tuesday, May 18, and conclude Friday, May 21. The teams with the seventh-highest and eighth-highest winning percentages in each conference will each have two opportunities to win one game to earn an NBA playoff 2021 spot. Lakers vs Warriors.
The matchups for the NBA’s new play-in tournament are set. It starts Tuesday night with the Eastern Conference: No. 10 Charlotte at No. 9 Indiana and No. 8 Washington at No. 7 Boston. And things shift to the Western Conference on Wednesday night: No. 10 San Antonio at No. 9 Memphis and No. 8 Golden State at the seventh-seeded Los Angeles Lakers.
LeBron James and Stephen Curry have squared off four times for championships, back in the days of those Warriors-Cleveland matchups in the NBA Finals being annual events. They’ll square off Wednesday for a slightly different prize — the No. 7 seed in the West playoffs, but it’ll still be a game loaded with hype and intrigue.
WE GOT A LAKERS VS. WARRIORS PLAY-IN GAME 🤯
Another chapter in the LeBron-Steph rivalry pic.twitter.com/hpA2VtU5RJ
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) May 17, 2021
“It’ll be a different scenario, but another chapter in it,” said Curry, the NBA’s scoring champion this season for the second time in his career. “At the end of the day, you expect greatness. That’s the part I’ve enjoyed so much about playing in the finals against him … those games that matter, it just brings out another level of intensity and excitement and a sense of urgency about it, because you know how good you have to play to win games like that.”
James said he considers Curry the MVP of the NBA this season. He’s eager to cross paths in a big-time moment with Curry and the Warriors once again and said he’ll take a playoff-game approach to the play-in.
“They’ve got championship DNA as well,” James said. “They’ve been there. They know what it takes and what it feels like to be in pressure games.”
Lakers vs Warriors: Confidence among the Lakers does not appear to be in short supply. They’ve been banged up all season, were without James and Anthony Davis for long stretches, and might have gotten another scare when James appeared to tweak his problematic right ankle late in Sunday’s finale in New Orleans.
“We’re getting healthy at the right time,” Lakers veteran Jared Dudley said. “And nobody wants to see a healthy Lakers team.”
Under the old system, the Lakers, Warriors, Celtics, and Wizards would be in the NBA playoffs 2021. The Grizzlies, Spurs, Pacers, and Hornets would be out.
Getting to the No. 8 spot for the play-in round in the East is a massive comeback for the Wizards, who started the season 0-5 and 3-12, were shut down for two weeks in January for coronavirus-related issues, had to play 38 games in the season’s final 67 days to make up for lost time and were 17-32 early last month.
But before the playoffs officially begin this weekend, LeBron vs. Steph — a pair of guys who both just happened to be born in Akron, Ohio — looms.
“You’re talking about two of the greatest players of all time,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “Both guys are still playing at such an elite level. And of course, four meetings in the finals are going to create a rivalry. But there’s obviously tremendous mutual respect between the two of them.”
Boston and the Lakers have the inside track to postseason spots. As the highest-seeded teams in the play-in, they will get two chances if necessary, both at home, to win just one game and make the NBA playoffs 2021.
“You win, you’re in. You lose, you’re not,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “I think that that’s something that will add a great deal of intrigue to fans and people are going to be excited about it. But you’ve got to be appropriately prepared, again, to play a fast game with a clear mind.”
The game to decide No. 8 in the East is Thursday, and the one that’ll decide No. 8 in the West is Friday. The playoffs start Saturday.
“We’re excited that we have the opportunity to keep playing,” Kerr said.
NBA Schedule: The NBA schedule calendar for the 2020-21 season:
Dec. 11-19, 2020: Preseason games
Dec. 22, 2020-March 4, 2021: First Half of regular season
March 5-10, 2021: All-Star break
March 11-May 16, 2021: Second Half of regular season
May 18-May 21: Play-In Tournament
May 22-July 22, 2021: 2021 NBA Playoffs