by Parker Fields
The 2021-22 NBA Season currently has four days left and the playoff picture is not what we expected.
The Los Angeles Lakers have officially been eliminated from playoff contention after being the odds-on favorites to win the Western Conference at the beginning of the year. The play-in teams in both conferences are now pretty much set. However, there is still an outside chance for the Timberwolves to jump the Nuggets and get into the 6th seed.
So, with the Nuggets needing to win just one of their final two games I’m going to assume they will with the hopeless Lakers still on the schedule in their final game of the Regular Season. With that, the play-in teams are set. In the East, you have the Cavaliers, the Nets, the Hawks, and the Hornets.
In the West, you have the Spurs, the Pelicans, the Clippers, and the Timberwolves. It is not set yet on which teams will have homecourt advantage in all these games, however, I don’t think it will matter with my predictions. For the Matchup of 7 and 8 in the East, we are not sure of which teams will play in this, however, I am predicting that the Nets will end up getting the 7th seed and the Cavaliers will get the 8th seed.
Now, so far in the season series, they have each won a game, however, this will not be taken into consideration much as both teams and rosters look very different now. I believe the Cavaliers have nobody to match up on Durant and he will live in the midrange. Overall, I think the Nets coast to the win and secure their spot in the playoffs.
Now, for the 9, 10 game I’m thinking that the Hawks are honestly going to roll to a high-scoring win. Both of these teams play at an extremely high pace and don’t play a lot of defense, However, in my opinion, the Hawks have two key X-Factors and that’s Trae Young and Clint Capela. Trae Young is easily the best player in this game, and I believe he will have the ability to take over and hit lots of timely shots. Clint Capela will be key with his rim protection to stop LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier, and Miles Bridges attacks to the rim.
The Hawks are also 27-14 at home and will be very tough to stop. I believe that the Hornets run will end in the play-in once again. Now, the win or go home game in Quicken Loans Arena between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Atlanta Hawks.
I believe this will be an ugly grind-it-out game with both teams going back and forth. But in the end, I believe the Atlanta Hawks will prevail.
Just about a week, ago this Hawks team beat the Cavaliers 131-107. Now, with Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen back for Cleveland, I believe it will be a much closer battle. However, I believe the playmaking of Trae Young for teammates and himself will be too much for the Cavaliers to handle. In the end, I expect the Hawks experience to be too much for
the Cavs and I see them making all the big plays late to secure the win and move on to the Eastern Conference Playoffs. For the Cavaliers, a once-promising season will now end in disappointment.
Now, for the Western Conference play-in. The matchup of 7 and 8 will be between the 7th seeded Timberwolves and the 8th seeded Clippers.
This will be a battle between teams who have had very different seasons. The Timberwolves have been a big surprise this season and nobody expected them to be in the play-in this year. The Clippers have been a powerhouse in the Western Conference in recent years but with Kawhi Leonard missing the whole season and Paul George missing most of the year they find themselves in the 8th seed. I think this team is coming together at the right time. With Paul George back this is pretty much the team that made the Western Conference Finals with even more depth now.
I believe the young Timberwolves will not be ready for the stage and Paul George and Reggie Jackson will take this game over. I’m taking the Clippers to pull off a close win.