The regular season came to an end on Sunday and the play-in tournament begins tonight with two primetime matchups. Starting at 7:30 pm EST will be the #7-seeded Miami Heat who will be hosting the #8 Atlanta Hawks. Later on at 10:00 pm EST, the #7 LA Lakers will host the #8 Minnesota Timberwolves in the West 7 vs 8 matchup. No play-in team has ever made it out of the first round in the three seasons this format has existed.
Teams are 0-9 in the first round coming out of the play-in tournament. On top of that, all nine of those series have not even made it to game 7. Winning the play-in game can be challenging in its own right. Having to try and beat one of the top two seeds after that is a tall task to accomplish.
The 2023 AT&T NBA Play-In Tournament schedule ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/M9izpVhaFP
— NBA Communications (@NBAPR) April 9, 2023
Why have the #7 and #8 seeds coming out of the play-in tournament not had success in the first round?
In the three years that the expanded play-in tournament has existed, the #7 and #8 seeds are a combined 0-9 in the first round. From 2003-2019, the #7 and #8 seeds were a combined 4-64 in the first round. It’s a daunting task for the lower seeds to have enough manpower to match up with either the #1 or #2 seed in their respective Conference.
There’s usually a reason that the team is in the play-in tournament. One team that many across the league are picking to make a deep playoff run is the LA Lakers. They will be facing the Minnesota Timberwolves tonight. Rudy Gobert is out for Minnesota’s game tonight as he was suspended one game by his team. He punched his teammate Kyle Anderson on Sunday during a timeout. The winner of this game will earn the #7 seed and will have a first-round matchup with the Memphis Grizzlies.
LA was dealing with injuries to their top players like LeBron James and Anthony Davis throughout the season, but seem to be healthy at the right time. They would have loved to make the playoffs without having to compete in the play-in. Regardless, if they take care of business tonight, they won’t have anything to worry about.
Source: Basketball Insider