The NBA postseason is here with two-game playoffs to begin. The LeBron James Lakers and Jimmy Butler Heat both have history and stars to make the postseason, but they’re stuck in the Play-In Championship.
Tuesday’s games pitted the teams with the seventh-best record in each conference against the teams with the eighth-best record in the respective conference. The winner gets the No. 7 seed in both matches. Tuesday’s losers play home games with the eighth and final seed in each conference on the line. These teams will host the winners of the Wednesday games, which feature the ninth and tenth-place finishers in each conference. Here is a further explanation of the Play-In format.
During the NBA Playoffs, the athleteTheir writers will make their direct choices. You’ll find picks, coverage, and the latest odds here. Our in-depth coverage of the NBA is linked below to the picks. For live NBA odds from BetMGM, click here.
7:30 p.m. ET on TNT
What are the odds for the Hawks vs. Heat game?
ok ok ok. They meet again.
In a rematch of last year’s 1-8 in the first round, the Miami Heat and Atlanta Hawks will face off on Tuesday night in the first championship game of 2023. In keeping with the recent history of these head-to-head matches. Head, you enter the heat as a solid preference.
These are two teams in the midst of disappointing seasons. Ten months ago, Miami was one Jimmy Butler 3-pointer away from a trip to the NBA Finals. Two years ago, Atlanta took the 2021 champion Milwaukee Bucks to six games in the Eastern Conference Finals — and followed a slump to the Play-In Championship and eighth seed in 2022 by swinging a big deal with Dejounte Murray in their latest offseason.
But now, both of them are fighting for their parting lives. The good news for fans is that it should be an interesting stylistic consistency.
The Heat finished the season 44-38 but with a net rating of -0.5 which ranked 21st in the NBA. 41-41 The Falcons narrowly outscored opponents by 0.1 points per 100 possessions this year (19). However, they each butter their bread in different ways. The Heat’s offense, dented by lousy 3-point shooting and a fast tempo, was 25th in the NBA this season, but their defense — ninth with a 112.8 rating — is still going strong. Meanwhile, the Falcons have a porous defense, but remain a solid attacking group (115.5 rating, 9th) that, despite low volume of 3-point attempts, thrives at midrange, looking after the ball and attacking the offensive glass.
Forgive the vanilla analysis, but the X-factor in this game will be the performances of the best players on each team: Trae Young for Atlanta and Butler for Miami.
On his way to sweeping a gentleman in the playoffs last year, the Heat smothered Young with an aggressive, switch-heavy defensive plan that brought him to 15.4 points and six assists (vs. 6.2 turnovers) per game on 31.9 percent shooting. But that was before the addition of Murray and head coach Quinn Snyder – and with a key defensive cog in PJ Tucker (now 76er) averaging 28.3 minutes.
As for Butler, he composed the most efficient bowl of his career in the 2022-23 season despite Miami’s slump – and he has a habit of upping his game until sometime come the postseason.
The Heat took three of the four regular season meetings between these two teams and Young held the second-lowest scoring average (19.8) and field goal percentage (35.6) of any Hawks opponent.
The winner of Tuesday’s game will fill the seventh seed and face the Boston Celtics in the first round. The loser will play the winner of Wednesday’s game between the Raptors and Bulls for the right to play the Bucks in the 1-8 series.
Expert Picks for Hawks vs. Heat
10 p.m. ET on TNT
What are the odds of facing the Lakers against the Timberwolves?
The final day of the NBA regular season is usually the star break and wonky stat lines. Unfortunately, Timberwolves’ Sunday turned out to be an eventful day.
Rudy Gobert swung Kyle Anderson in a timeout (resulting in a one-match suspension). Jaden McDaniels’ right hand is broken. And despite the thrilling victory over New Orleans, a tough opponent awaits in the Western Conference play-by-play opener on Tuesday night. The Lakers are tied as strong favorites for the contest.
The Lakers finished the season 43-39, one game better than Minnesota. But since the trade deadline facelift — which included the addition of Jared Vanderbilt, D’Angelo Russell and Malik Beasley while eliminating Russell Westbrook — the Lakers have the best record in the West (18-9). With both Anthony Davis and LeBron James available to enter the postseason, the prospect of recruiting two of the best players in any game makes the Lakers dangerous, especially in a single-game scenario.
Despite their hype — Nas Red has been sidelined indefinitely — the Timberwolves face an uphill battle ahead. But Anthony Edwards is also a candidate to take over whatever game he plays in. Just ask the Pelicans, who fell victim to a 26-point, 13-rebound, four-assist, steal-and-block performance from the third-year star on Sunday:
Karl Anthony Towns also returned after a lengthy injury layoff, adding some firepower to Minnesota’s offense, and Mike Conley fit comfortably at point guard.
As for the regular season series: Minnesota has two of three games, though the first win came in late October. They split over two games in March, with the Timberwolves winning early in the month while James was shelved and the Lakers winning on March 31 as both teams approached full strength.
The winner will face the Grizzlies in the first round of the playoffs as the seventh seed, while the loser will battle for the eighth seed—and a date with the Denver Nuggets—against the Pelicans-Thunder winner.
Expert Picks Lakers vs Timberwolves
More about the NBA Play-In Championship
NBA Play-In league schedule, format, and impact on the league
The Complete NBA Playoff Bracket Set: What to Expect from the Play-In Games, First-Round Matches
(Photo by LeBron James: Harry How/Getty Images)
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