Sunday marked the last day of the 2023 NBA regular season. Rudy Gobert punched Kyle Anderson, Jaden McDaniels fractured his hand punching the wall, Payton Pritchard had a 30-point triple double and Kenny Lofton dropped 42 points. What a bunch of random things happening, right?
Well now, things are about to get serious. Before the playoffs begin, there will be six play-in games played to determine the 7 and 8 seeds for each conference. Four of which will be happening in the next two days. Here is my expert analysis and predictions.
No. 8 Atlanta Hawks @ No. 7 Miami Heat
Easy win for the Hawks, hypothetically speaking. These teams faced off last year in the first round, where the Heat won in 5. But this year is a different story. The Heat have been crusin’ for a bruisin’ since the trade deadline, and the Hawks are Captain Bruisin’. This season, the Hawks have Dejounte Murray taking some of the pressure off of Trae Young, and even if Young has a bad game, the Hawks offense will be able to stay afloat. On the other hand, Miami’s offense is awful as is. The team who is less offensively challenged will win this game.
VERDICT: Hawks secure the 7 seed and move on to face the Boston Celtics in the first round.
No. 8 Minnesota Timberwolves @ No. 7 Los Angeles Lakers
Dear Evan and Jaegar,
For Timberwolves fans like yourselves, this game is going to be a tough one. I regret to inform you that LeBron James is the greatest basketball player on the planet and he will not lose to a team that hates each other. Jaden McDaniels was the piece holding this team together, and without him, they will struggle to contain LeGoat. LeDominant will prove his worth, and DLo will have his revenge game.
With love, as always,
VERDICT: Lakers continue their post-trade deadline surge and take the 7 seed. Grizzlies are up next.
No. 10 Chicago Bulls @ No. 9 Toronto Raptors
Honestly, who cares. The Bulls are trash unless Lonzo plays, but he is not. Yawn. The Raptors get carried by Pascal Siakam every night, and that will likely have to happen again if they are going to win this game. Although they are underwhelming and boring, the Bulls have more starpower than the Raptors, and that alone should help them get out of this game. I think this game is a toss up, honestly.
VERDICT: The Bulls escape a close one in the 6. Drake cries and tells DeMar DeRozan “This isn’t you,” as he leaves the arena to ‘write’ another mid song. Bulls @ Heat for the 8 seed.
No. 10 Oklahoma City Thunder @ No. 9 New Orleans Pelicans
I’m pissed that one of these teams has to lose. However, if I had to pick, I hope that the team that loses is the Pelicans. The Thunder have the talent to steal this game, but it all comes down to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Progressing into a superstar this season, SGA is the best player on the court in most games, but especially in this one. He has playoff experience with the Clippers, but will he be able to perform as the no. 1 option? If he does, the Thunder will have at least one more game on their schedule.
VERDICT: Ultimately, I think that the Thunder will take this game. It will be close, but I think that the Thunder are trending up while the Pelicans are trending down without Zion Williamson, who would make a huge difference in this game if he was healthy. The Thunder move on to take on the division rival Timberwolves in the battle for who gets swept by the Nuggets.
With only one game to decide their fate, teams will be putting their blood, sweat and tears into these games. If you are not a fan of the NBA because you think that players don’t try, then you should probably consider watching these games. With superstars like LeBron, Anthony Edwards, Trae Young, Jimmy Butler, Anthony Davis, SGA, and more taking action in the play-in, something crazy is going to happen.
In other news, I’m thinking about starting a construction company. DM me if interested. Skol.
Write to Hayden Lee at Hayden.Lee@my.smsu.edu
Header Photo: Dread it, deny it, run from it, but Trae Young’s hair is coming back. I’m predicting a mullet by 2025. (I screenshotted this on my PlayStation. LOL XD.)