2021 State Farm NBA Play-In Tournament

Play-In Picture (April 30): The Wizarding World of Westbrook

Key inter-conference matchups made for interesting swings in the Play-In Tournament races.

Ben Couch, NBA.com

Russell Westbrook posts league-leading 31st triple-double of the season.

Russell Westbrook triple-double? Wizards’ victory? Welp. Must be a day ending in -y. Washington’s stunning late-season run continued Friday with a 122-93 smackdown of the Cavaliers, as Westbrook capped the team’s outstanding April (11-5) by crossing the triple-double threshold just 25 minutes into the game. He finished with 15 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists for triple-double No. 31 this year and 177 overall — just four behind Oscar Robertson for the all-time lead.

The Wizards now hold a three-game advantage on the Bulls for that crucial 10th seed while also sitting only 0.5 games behind the Pacers (9th) and 1.5 behind the Hornets (8th) with nine to play. Getting quick to the point where those Play-In Tournament games could leave the nominal ‘favorites’ a little nervous.

Eastern Conference

6. Boston Celtics (🔼)

Boston Celtics logo Record: 34-30
Games Ahead (7th): 0.5 *Hold tiebreaker vs. MIA
Games Back (5th): — *ATL holds tiebreaker

Last Result: 143-140 (OT) W vs. SAS
Next Opponent: vs. POR on Sunday

 

Every time it seems the Celtics have turned a corner this season, they run into a wall. Friday night, Jayson Tatum ran through it: his career-high 60 points tied the Celtics’ single-game record (set by Larry Legend) and fueled an insane 32-point comeback that will leave the Spurs having nightmares.


 

7. Miami Heat (🔽)

Miami Heat logoRecord: 33-30
Games Ahead (11th): 7.0
Games Back (6th): 0.5 *BOS holds tiebreaker

Last Result: 116-111 W vs. SAS
Next Opponent: @ CLE on Saturday

 

The Heat beat San Antonio to give Erik Spoelstra his 600th coaching victory, making him just the sixth to do that with one team. Win No. 601 could be on deck Saturday in Cleveland, and it’s the time of the season to win the games you should.

 

8. Charlotte Hornets (–)

Charlotte Hornets logoRecord: 30-32
Games Ahead (11th): 4.5
Games Back (6th): 3.0

Last Result: 120-111 L @ BOS
Next Opponent: vs. DET on Saturday

 

The Hornets — hanging around long enough that once-imposing injuries are starting to heal — took an L in Boston, but have a chance to rebound against the Pistons.

 

9. Indiana Pacers (–)

Indiana Pacers logoRecord: 29-33
Games Ahead (11th): 3.5
Games Back (6th): 4.0

Last Result: 130-113 L vs. BKN
Next Opponent: @ OKC on Saturday

 

The Pacers lost Malcolm Brogdon to a hamstring injury Thursday, and then the game to a Kevin Durant onslaught (42 for the soul-stealer). Oklahoma City has been nosediving out of the competitive arena, and the road contest could prove crucial.

 

10. Washington Wizards (🔼)

Washington Wizards logoRecord: 29-34
Games Ahead (11th): 3.0
Games Back (6th): 4.5

Last Result: 122-93 W @ CLE
Next Opponent: @ DAL on Saturday

The triple-doubles keep coming, and the victories keep following. Oh, and this Bradley Beal guy might win the scoring title. It took most of the season (and managing a COVID-19 outbreak) to make this make sense, but we’re all seeing the light now that they’ve found their stride.


 

11. Chicago Bulls (🔽)

Chicago Bulls logoRecord: 26-37
Games Back (10th): 3.0

Last Result: 108-98 L vs. MIL
Next Opponent: @ ATL on Saturday

 

The Bulls, who traded for Nikola Vucevic thinking a leap forward was part of the package, have found their playoff dreams ground-bound ever since. A not-as-close-as-the-scoreline loss to division rival Milwaukee leaves them 3.0 games out with nine to play.

 

12. Toronto Raptors (–)

Toronto Raptors logoRecord: 26-37
Games Back (10th): 2.5

Last Result: 121-111 L @ DEN
Next Opponent: @ UTA on Saturday

 

They’re tied with the Bulls, 3.0 games back of the Wizards for 10th, but lack even that paltry tiebreaker. They carry those heavy odds to Utah tomorrow, where they’d better hope the Jazz’s back-to-back opener in Phoenix took some of Utah’s legs.

 

Western Conference

6. Dallas Mavericks (–)

Dallas Mavericks logoRecord: 35-27
Games Ahead (7th): 0.5
Games Back (5th): 0.5

Last Result: 115-105 W vs. DET
Next Opponent: vs. WAS on Saturday

 

Dallas didn’t have Luka, and lost Kristaps Porzingis in the early going on Thursday. Tim Hardaway and his 42 points came right to the rescue. Saturday’s matchup with Washington holds key implications for both squads and could be a low-key showstopper.


 

7. Portland Trail Blazers (🔼 )

Portland Trail Blazers logoRecord: 34-28
Games Ahead (11th): 7.0
Games Back (6th): 0.5

Last Result: 128-109 vs. BKN
Next Opponent: @ BOS on Sunday

 

Damian Lillard unleashed the full logo-launching fusillade (32 points, 8-13 3Ps) while adding seven boards and nine assists, Jusuf Nurkic hit the Nets in the soft part of their defense, and Portland cruised against a KD-less Brooklyn. The Celtics will be riding high on Sunday after a thrilling OT victory, but could be wobbly in the early going, providing Portland a chance to capitalize.

 

8. Memphis Grizzlies (🔼)

Memphis Grizzlies logoRecord: 32-30
Games Ahead (11th): 4.5
Games Back (6th): 3.0

Last Result: 92-75 W vs. ORL
Next Opponent: @ ORL on Saturday

 

After beating the Magic with a complete performance on Friday in Memphis, the Grizzlies are headed to Orlando for the back half of this home-and-home matchup. A similar result would keep sixth — and an escape from the Play-In pitfalls altogether — within reach.

 

9. San Antonio Spurs (🔽 )

San Antionio Spurs logoRecord: 31-31
Games Ahead (11th): 3.5
Games Back (6th): 4.0

Last Result: 143-140 (OT) L @ BOS
Next Opponent: vs. PHI on Sunday

 

Yikes. Talk about the kind of loss one can ill afford amid all this. The Spurs led by as many as 32 points — and 29 at the half — only to take an overtime L after allowing Jayson Tatum to drop a Celtics-record-tying 60. With Philly on deck, bouncing back won’t be easy.

 

10. Golden State Warriors (–)

Golden State Warriors logoRecord: 31-32
Games Ahead (11th): 3.0
Games Back (6th): 4.5

Last Result: 126-114 L @ MIN
Next Opponent: @ HOU on Saturday (ESPN)

 

A strong effort from Steph went to waste in the last one, and now the Warriors need to make sure they aren’t the second straight team to let Kevin Porter Jr. put 50 on ’em.


 

11. New Orleans Pelicans (–)

New Orleans Pelicans logoRecord: 28-35
Games Back (10th): 3.0

Last Result: 109-95 W @ OKC
Next Opponent: @ MIN on Saturday

The Pelicans won a game they needed if they’re going to continue this chase, and continuing the Midwest swing only sets them up against a Timberwolves team primed to play spoilers, what with Anthony Edwards finally finding his form and Karl-Anthony Towns manning the middle.

12. Sacramento Kings (🔼)

Sacramento Kings logoRecord: 26-37
Games Back (10th): 5.0

Last Result: 110-106 W @ LAL
Next Opponent: @ DAL on Sunday

 

LeBron James returned to action Friday, but he was shaking off the rust, and the Kings took an opportunity to steal a late-season W off the reigning champs. They’re in this by Bubble standards, but five games and two teams is a tough task with only nine to play. Heading to Dallas doesn’t help.

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