NBA Playoffs 2021: Play-in Tournament Schedule, Bracket, Odds, and TV Info

Tyler Conway@@jtylerconwayFeatured Columnist IVMay 17, 2021

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - MARCH 15: Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors shoots a free throw while LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers plays defense on March 15, 2021 at Chase Center in San Francisco, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)
Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

The complaints about the NBA play-in tournament got awfully quiet in the final week of the regular season, as teams raced to the very last day of the regular season to avoid what could be single elimination.

The play-in also provided some elite tankery, with the Nuggets doing everything they could to avoid the Lakers in Round 1 and the Clippers somehow managing to close their season with losses to the Rockets and Thunder...thus avoiding the Lakers before the Conference Finals.

As for LeBron James and Co., they find themselves headed toward a one-game collision course with Stephen Curry and his surging Warriors. 

2020 NBA Play-In Schedule

Eastern Conference

No. 10 Charlotte Hornets vs. No. 9 Indiana Pacers (-3.5) (Tuesday, May 18 at 6:30 p.m. ET, TNT)
No. 8 Washington Wizards vs. No. 7 Boston Celtics (-1.5) (Tuesday, May 18 at 9 p.m. ET, TNT)

Western Conference

No. 10. San Antonio Spurs vs. No. 9 Memphis Grizzlies (-3.5) (Wednesday, May 19 at 6:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 8 Golden State Warriors vs. No. 7 Los Angeles Lakers (-6.5) (Wednesday, May 19 at 9 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Odds via FanDuel Sportsbook.

Curry has been the NBA's best player over the second half of the season. He's averaged 34.4 points per game since the All-Star break and capped the regular season by leading the Warriors to seven wins in their last eight games. 

James told reporters Sunday that Curry is his choice for league MVP.

"I mean, just look at what he's done this year," James said. "I don't know anything else if you're looking for an MVP. If Steph is not on Golden State's team, what are we looking at?

"We get caught up in the records sometimes. We get caught up in the, OK, who has the best record, instead of just saying who had the best season that year. And Steph has had, in my opinion, the best season all year."

The Lakers closed the regular season with an impressive five-game winning streak despite James and Anthony Davis clearly still not at 100 percent. James limped off Sunday's 110-98 win over the Pelicans in the fourth quarter, seemingly tweaking the ankle that cost him 27 regular-season games. While James avoided serious re-injury, the vision of him hobbling off the floor sends a clear message that these Lakers are not the behemoth that entered the regular season.

While they will carry home-court advantage against the Warriors—and potentially in a second play-in game against the winner of the Spurs-Grizzlies matchup—they are also historically unlikely to make a deep run into the playoffs. No team seeded lower than No. 6 has ever won the NBA championship; only 10 times has a No. 7 or No. 8 seed gone past the first round.

The Eastern Conference play-in is a story of three teams scuffling to the end and the Washington Wizards, who are soaring amid MVP-caliber play from Russell Westbrook. The triple-double machine averaged 23.6 points, 12.8 rebounds and 13.2 assists since the All-Star break, helping lead the Wizards back from their abysmal start to the regular season to grab the No. 8 spot on the last day of the regular season.

Washington plays a Boston Celtics team that might be the most disappointing in the sport this season. The Celtics figuratively and literally limped to the finish line, losing five of their last six games while also losing Jaylen Brown for the season. Jayson Tatum and Evan Fournier also sat out the final game of the regular season due to injuries.

The Hornets and Pacers are likewise an uninspiring bunch. Indiana is seemingly ready to hit fast-forward on the season so it can eject coach Nate Bjorkgren after only one season. Charlotte dropped five straight games to end the season and hasn't been impressive since losing Gordon Hayward in early April.

The overwhelming odds are that the Celtics and Wizards will find a way to reach the postseason, regardless of their matchup Tuesday. 

For all the latest betting information and reaction, check out B/R Betting.

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This article will be updated to provide more information on this story as it becomes available.

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