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Thursday, April 14, 2022

Notes on the 2022 NBA Play-In Tournament

Four of the six 2022 NBA Play-In Tournament games are in the books (metaphorically--the league does not count the statistics from these games). The Brooklyn Nets earned a separate game recap because they are the only Play-In Tournament participant that has any chance to win even one playoff series; the other three Play-In Tournament games are summarized below.

On Tuesday night, the Minnesota Timberwolves defeated the L.A. Clippers 109-104, and the Timberwolves partied like it was a combination of "1999" (shout out to Minnesota native Prince), "One Shining Moment," and a celebration of a game seven victory in the NBA Finals. Patrick Beverley celebrated, cried, and trash-talked so much that inattentive viewers may have not noticed that he shot 2-8 from the field and 2-4 from the free throw line while posting a -5 plus/minus number. Although he grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds, his fury at the Clippers for not re-signing him betrays an almost delusional self-belief about his impact (Beverley averaged 9.2 ppg on .406 field goal shooting this season but he acts like he is the main reason that the Timberwolves snuck into the playoffs). I respect how Beverley has persevered from humble beginnings to overcome many challenges en route to becoming a rotation player in the NBA, but his act has become more than a little annoying. 

Karl Anthony-Towns is probably elated that Beverley attracted so much attention, because Karl Anthony-Towns--the self-proclaimed best shooting big man of all-time--shot 3-11 from the field, scored 11 points before fouling out, and stumbled to a team-worst -14 plus/minus number: the best thing that happened to the Timberwolves all night is that he fouled out, because the Timberwolves took over after he went to the bench. Anthony Edwards led the Timberwolves with 30 points, and D'Angelo Russell added 29 points. As Charles Barkley noted (in less charitable terms), the Timberwolves' shot selection is awful, and they won this game despite making many questionable decisions. Of course, you can survive bad decision making if the opposing team cannot put the ball in the hole; the Clippers shot just .436 from the field, and their two main scoring threats--Paul George (34 points) and Reggie Jackson (17 points) combined to shoot just 17-42 from the field (.405).

Last night, the Atlanta Hawks routed the Charlotte Hornets, 132-103. The Hawks are trying to salvage a disappointing season just one year after they made an improbable run to the Eastern Conference Finals, while the Hornets have not made the playoffs since 2016 and have not won a playoff series since 2002, four years before Michael Jordan bought a minority ownership stake and eight years before Jordan became the team's majority owner; as great as Jordan was as a player, he has found little success as either a basketball talent evaluator/executive or as a team owner.

In the first half, young point guards Trae Young and LaMelo Ball battled to see who could shoot worse, resulting in an inept tie as both shot 3-13 from the field. Young received more help from his teammates, and thus the Hawks led 60-52 at intermission. Young and Ball continued to misfire in the second half, and Young continued to receive more help from his teammates. Young finished with 24 points on 8-24 field goal shooting, while Ball had 26 points on 7-25 field goal shooting. The Hawks survived Young's bricklaying by shooting .521 from the field overall (.586 not counting Young). The Hornets shot just .378 from the field, and we can unofficially designate the Hornets as the worst franchise in the brief history of the Play-In Tournament; last year, the Hornets lost 144-117 to the Indiana Pacers, so the Hornets' lifetime Play-In Tournament plus/minus is -56.

In the second game of Wednesday's doubleheader, the New Orleans Pelicans built a 21 point lead, squandered most of it, and then righted the ship in time to beat the San Antonio Spurs, 113-103. The Pelicans shot .543 from the field, led by C.J. McCollum (32 points on 12-23 field goal shooting), Brandon Ingram (27 points on 11-19 field goal shooting), and Jonas Valanciunas (22 points on 9-14 field goal shooting). The Spurs shot just .407 from the field and they trailed by double digits for most of the second half. Devin Vassell led the Spurs with 23 points, while All-Star Dejounte Murray struggled (16 points, 5-19 field goal shooting).

On Friday night, the Cavaliers and Hawks will battle for the East's final playoff spot, while the Clippers-Pelicans game will determine who gets the West's last playoff berth. Two pretenders--the Hornets and the Spurs--have been sent home already, and it will be great to complete the playoff field so the postseason can begin.

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posted by David Friedman @ 12:44 AM



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