And just like that, we conclude the 2020-21 NBA regular season and move onto the new NBA play-in tournament starting this Tuesday, followed by the Playoffs on May 22. I’m sure we are all aware of the play-in tournament rules and schedule, but just in case, here is a breakdown for anyone that needs to catch up on what’s to come.
Even before these games are played, the NBA has already benefited from the new introduction of the mini-tournament. Why? Because usually the last month of the regular season, fans begin to tune out as bad teams tank, while good teams rest players. But this year, it didn’t happen. It gave us almost every team having massive implications regarding how they finish off the season.
Some teams were trying to get into the tournament, while others were fighting to stay out of it. It also brought in added competition for the No. 7 and No. 8 seeds, where this year, it literally came down to the last game. Normally in the old system, this wouldn’t be the case as it ends up being two teams fighting for the 8th seed, for example. This year, the ripple effect from the tournament was huge, creating meaningful games from the top of the standings to the teams with a slither of a chance of making the Playoffs.
The tournament will also create a mini version of a spotlight or pressure to perform on different players before the Playoffs. What I mean is, players like Ja Morant, or LaMelo Ball, now have an opportunity to make people notice them and have breakout performances to head into the Playoffs.
Think about Damian Lillard when the shot the ball from nearly half-court over Paul George to win the series. Or Luka Dončić last year in the bubble with the step-back dagger shot in overtime. I know these are Playoff games, but I clearly remember them, and that’s the point. When it’s a win-or-lose tournament, we could end up with games like that.
The play-in tournament is here to stay, and I’m excited to see what it brings over the next few days.
Catch you Thursday.