The 2020-21 NBA season will see a first-of-its-kind play in tournament this year. The Lakers and Warriors will face each other in their first game.
Covid-19 has changed the sporting world in a myriad different ways over the past 14 months. With the whole world battling a pandemic, sports were given a backseat for a while.
This break allowed the powers that be to think of ways to spruce up the levels of competition in many major leagues. The European Super League was just one of the many groundbreaking proposals/moves to be spurred by these extenuating circumstances.
The NBA prides itself in being able to maintain a competitive balance while also showcasing its biggest stars off. This year’s edition of the play in tournament will definitely change how NBA teams approach upcoming seasons.
🚨 The West #StateFarmPlayIn Tournament matchups are set! 🚨
Who ya got?
— NBA (@NBA) May 17, 2021
Play in Tournament Qualifier 1: Lakers (7) vs Warriors (8)
The victors of this game will play the 2nd-seeded Phoenix Suns in their first-round matchup. With LeBron James back and approaching full fitness, the Lakers will start this game as betting favorites against the Warriors.
Head coach Frank Vogel will have a problem of plenty at his hands. The Lakers have Marc Gasol, Montrezl Harrell, and Andre Drummond as their 3 listed centers. All 3 of them have a genuine case at a starting berth against the Warriors, but Drummond will likely start the game.
Anthony Davis and LeBron James have both shown that they’re very much in All-NBA form even now. If they’re able to pull their weight, the Lakers will look like their championship selves.
Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins are the 3 consistent players who Steve Kerr will be banking on. Curry will have to go produce a playoff classic for them to match the Lakers’ offensive production.
It’ll be a really exciting game if the Warriors’ bench mob comes to play. They’ve taken great strides over the course of the season, so they should be able to theoretically keep the game within range when Steph sits.
Play in Tournament Qualifier 2: Grizzlies (9) vs Spurs (10)
The victors of this game will play the team that loses Qualifier 1. This is going to be a matchup between a relatively inexperienced team in Memphis against a Spurs team with more playoff experience.
Memphis is a team that is capable of doing damage both inside and outside. The size of Jonas Valanciunas has proved to be a thorn in several playoff teams’ flesh this year. JV will be complemented by Jaren Jackson Jr, who’s more of a stretch big.
Dillon Brooks and Ja will need to be their best selves on offense to keep the score ticking. They’ve often been guilty of killing their team’s rhythm with ill-advised shots over the course of the season.
The Spurs, meanwhile, will bank on DeMar DeRozan’s playoff experience to give them a consistent mid-range presence. Their stable of dynamic guards like Dejounte Murray, Patty Mills and Lonnie Walker can go off at any point in a game and give them separation on the scoreline.
Jakob Poeltl will have the unenviable task of guarding the Valanciunas-Morant pick-and-roll pairing through the course of the game. But if the Spurs are able to make their small lineup count, this game will decisively be in their favor.