2021 State Farm NBA Play-In Tournament

Play-In Picture: Lakers take lead in West game of musical chairs

The Play-In Tournament situation out West experienced a drastic overhaul after Monday's slate of games.

May 3: State Farm Play-In Tournament update

What happens when six of the seven Western Conference teams placed fifth through 11th play on the same night?

Chaos. Beautiful chaos.

Swirling at its center were the Lakers, who entered Monday night 1) with LeBron back on the bench and 2) locked into a three-way race for fifth place that could see them slip right into the State Farm Play-In Tournament. Facing a Denver team defying injuries and led by a top Kia MVP candidate in Nikola Jokic, L.A. needed a boost from someone not named Anthony Davis.

Turns out the only other Laker with past All-NBA credentials was the right choice.

Frank Vogel dusted off former three-time All-Star and Defensive Player of the Year big man Marc Gasol for the 17 most productive minutes of his season and the Lakers’ night. The skilled Spaniard was a robust plus-17 in his time on the court, putting up 10 points, seven rebounds, two assists, and superb team defense in a massive 93-89 win for Los Angeles.

The victory doesn’t assure the Lakers of much — yet. But it could prove the difference by the time the dust settles, especially in light of Monday night’s other results.

If the State Farm Play-In Tournament started today:

Eastern Conference

  • East 7 (Celtics) vs. East 8 (Hornets) | Winner gets No. 7 overall seed
  • East 9 (Pacers) vs. East 10 (Wizards) | Loser is eliminated
  • Loser 7/8 vs. Winner 9/10 | Winner gets No. 8 overall seed

Western Conference

  • West 7 (Trail Blazers) vs. West 8 (Warriors) | Winner gets No. 7 overall seed
  • West 9 (Grizzlies) vs. West 10 (Spurs) | Loser is eliminated
  • Loser 7/8 vs. Winner 9/10 | Winner gets No. 8 overall seed

Playoff picture | Current standings | Play-In Tournament FAQ | NBA playoff history

Eastern Conference

5. Atlanta Hawks (–)

Atlanta Hawks LogoRecord: 36-30
Games Ahead (7th): 1.5
*Holds tiebreaker vs. MIA, BOS
Games Back (5th): –

Last Result: 93-89 W vs. DEN
Next Opponent: vs. LAC on Thursday

Atlanta seems to be taking advantage of the home-friendly portion of its schedule to close out 2020-21. Bogdan Bogdanovic and Danilo Gallinari provided the offense on Monday as the Hawks blitzed the Blazers in the second half with a barrage of 3-pointers. Five of Atlanta’s six remaining games are at home, where it has now won six in a row and can get more separation from Miami with a win against visiting Phoenix on Wednesday.

6. Miami Heat (–)

Miami Heat logoRecord: 35-30
Games Ahead (6th): 1.0
*BOS holds tiebreaker
Games Back (5th): 0.5
*ATL holds tiebreaker

Last Result: 121-111 W @ CHA
Next Opponent: vs. DAL on Tuesday

Idle Miami is still tied in the loss column with Atlanta, but the Heat need to gain at least one game in that regard to pass them since the Hawks own the tiebreaker. Boston is also just a game back, and Miami doesn’t own that tiebreaker either. The Heat face an equally playoff-motivated Dallas team on on Tuesday.



7. Boston Celtics (–)

Boston Celtics logo Record: 34-31
Games Ahead (11th): 7.0
Games Back (6th): 1.0

Last Result: 129-119 L vs. POR
Next Opponent: @ ORL on Wednesday


Boston is in danger of being left behind and in the Play-In Tournament. The teams above the Celtics aren’t losing, and they can’t afford to give up more ground to the Hawks and Heat (with a three-game cushion over Boston, the Knicks are likely out of reach). They have another day of rest before visiting a rebuilding Orlando squad on Wednesday.


8. Charlotte Hornets (–)

Charlotte Hornets logoRecord: 31-33
Games Ahead (11th): 4.5
Games Back (6th): 3.5

Last Result: 121-111 L vs. MIA
Next Opponent: @ DET on Tuesday


Another East team that did not play on Monday, Charlotte needs every win it can get to stay in the No. 7-8 range (sixth-place Miami is three games up in the loss column, a tall order with just eight games remaining). Sliding to ninth or 10th means one loss and you’re out. The return of LaMelo Ball helps Charlotte’s impressive backcourt, which will have every chance to succeed against the East-worst Pistons on Tuesday.


9. Indiana Pacers (–)

Indiana Pacers logoRecord: 30-34
Games Ahead (11th): 3.5
Games Back (6th): 4.5

Last Result: 154-141 L @ WAS
Next Opponent: vs. SAC on Wednesday


After weeks of seeing the Wizards getting closer in the rearview mirror, the Pacers will likely see them — especially Russell Westbrook — in their nightmares after Monday’s key defeat. Westbrook’s 20-rebound, 20-assist performance gashed nearly all of Indiana’s cushion over 10th-place Washington, leaving just one game in the loss column to spare.


10. Washington Wizards (–)

Washington Wizards logoRecord: 30-35
Games Ahead (11th): 3.0
Games Back (6th): 5.0

Last Result: 154-141 W vs. IND
Next Opponent: @ MIL on Wednesday


Russell Westbrook and the Wizards continued their late-season surge, with the triple-double machine joining Wilt Chamberlain and himself in statistical history. The Wizards have won eight of their last 10, and climbing to eight place — where they would get two chances at the lone victory needed to advance from the Play-In to the playoffs — is not out of reach.



11. Toronto Raptors (–)

Toronto Raptors logoRecord: 27-38
Games Back (10th): 3.0

Last Result: 121-114 W @ LAL
Next Opponent: @ LAC on Tuesday



Toronto could use more of the vintage Pascal Siakam and Kyle Lowry it saw in Sunday’s win over the Lakers. They’ll need it against the other L.A. team, which is in its own dogfight for higher seeding out West. Trailing 10th-place Washington by three full games, it’s now or never for the 2019 NBA champs.


12. Chicago Bulls (–)

Chicago Bulls logoRecord: 26-39
Games Back (10th): 4.0

Last Result: 106-94 L vs. PHI
Next Opponent: @ CHA on Thursday



Chicago’s Play-In hopes are fading fast, though they gave Philadelphia a test despite not having Nikola Vucevic or Zach LaVine available. Coby White did fine carrying the scoring load (23 points). He’ll need to do that and then some against Charlotte on Thursday.

Western Conference

5. Los Angeles Lakers (🔼)

Los Angeles Lakers logoRecord: 37-28
Games Ahead (7th): 1.0
*Holds tiebreaker vs. POR
Games Back (5th): —
*DAL holds tiebreaker

Last Result: 93-89 W vs. DEN
Next Opponent: vs. LAC on Thursday

Twenty-four hours removed from a listless loss to the 11th-place Raptors, the Lakers gutted out an emotionally electric win over the Nuggets. Without LeBron. Go figure. Los Angeles couldn’t ask for a better start to just a brutal week, with the Clippers, Blazers, and Suns all waiting before next Monday. For now, L.A. can exhale the tiniest sigh of relief that they are in sole possession of fifth for now (the Blazers’ loss also helps immensely). James’ status (day-to-day with a sore right ankle) will be the center of attention during the Lakers’ most crucial week of the season.


6. Dallas Mavericks (🔽)

Dallas Mavericks logoRecord: 36-28
Games Ahead (7th): 0.5
*Hold tiebreaker vs. POR
Games Back (5th): 0.5
*Hold tiebreaker vs. LAL

Last Result: 111-99 L vs. SAC
Next Opponent: @ MIA on Tuesday


Dallas sat out Monday’s game of musical chairs, watching the Lakers gain a victory the Mavericks must now match to keep pace. Doing so against a desperate Miami team on Tuesday is no small matter — the Heat have won three in a row and seven of their last 10. Still, Dallas holding tiebreakers over both the Lakers and Blazers give it a slightly bigger margin for error.



7. Portland Trail Blazers (🔽)

Portland Trail Blazers logoRecord: 36-29
Games Ahead (11th): 7.0
Games Back (6th): 0.5
*DAL, LAL hold tiebreakers

Last Result: 123-114 L @ ATL
Next Opponent: @ ATL on Monday

Without the tiebreaker over the Mavs and the same issue to be resolved with the Lakers on Friday, the Blazers needed to do everything they could to stay in control of their own destiny. That effort faltered on Monday with a high-scoring loss to the Hawks, who drilled 20 of their 41 attempts from 3-point range. The Blazers are mostly healthy now, but that health needs to translate to wins if they want to avoid the perils of the Play-In.


8. Golden State Warriors (🔼)

Golden State Warriors logoRecord: 33-32
Games Ahead (11th): 4.0
Games Back (6th): 3.5

Last Result: 123-108 W @ NOP
Next Opponent: @ NOP on Tuesday


Draymond Green found the Time Stone on Marvel Night, turning in a throwback triple-double and even printing a poster jam in a vital victory for the Warriors. Golden State is now in eighth, again where a team gets two Play-In chances to snag one win and make the playoffs. Following the same storyline would be best for the endgame, as the Warriors face the same Pelicans team looking to avenge itself on Tuesday.


9. Memphis Grizzlies (🔽)

Memphis Grizzlies logoRecord: 32-32
Games Ahead (11th): 3.5
Games Back (6th): 4.0

Last Result: 118-104 L vs. NYK
Next Opponent: @ MIN on Wednesday


The Grizzlies’ season-long dance around .500 continues with a loss to the streaking Knicks. Starting guards Ja Morant and Grayson Allen shot a combined 2-for-19, while the Memphis defense was completely picked apart. The Grizzlies slid to ninth place, though where they ultimately finish could depend on their season finale against Golden State — a game that will decide the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Warriors.


10. San Antonio Spurs (–)

San Antionio Spurs logoRecord: 31-33
Games Ahead (11th): 2.5
Games Back (6th): 5.0

Last Result: 110-99 L @ UTA
Next Opponent: @ UTA on Wednesday


The Spurs have now lost four in a row, but are somehow still trail eighth-place Golden State by one game in the loss column. The glass-half empty take looms in the form of a rematch with Utah on Wednesday. San Antonio must do better either attacking or defending the paint, where they were outscored 66-46 on Monday.



11. New Orleans Pelicans (–)

New Orleans Pelicans logoRecord: 29-36
Games Back (10th): 2.5

Last Result: 123-108 L vs. GSW
Next Opponent: GSW on Tuesday


The Spurs’ losing skid beckons as an invitation, one the young Pelicans have been unable to answer. A vintage performance by Curry and Green kept New Orleans on the outside looking in, still trailing 10th-place San Antonio by three games in the loss column with only seven games remaining. They have a chance for immediate revenge and results against the Warriors on Tuesday.


12. Sacramento Kings (🔼)

Sacramento Kings logoRecord: 27-37
Games Back (10th): 4.0

Last Result: 111-99 W @ LAL
Next Opponent: @ OKC on Tuesday



The Kings got one night’s worth of wishes with both the Spurs and Pelicans above them losing on Monday night. Can they capitalize despite still trailing San Antonio by four games with only eight to play? They can begin to answer that against the rebuilding Thunder on Tuesday.