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NBA

Who is still alive with a chance to play-in to the NBA playoffs?

With the number eight seed in the NBA playoffs to be decided in both conferences, it is win or go home in the final NBA Play-In Tournament competitions

Jeffrey May
Update:
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Layne Murdoch Jr.Getty

After an exciting Meta Quest NBA Play-In Tournament, it all comes down to Friday’s games. It is winner-take-all for the final two playoff slots and it all comes down to the Cleveland Cavaliers vs the Atlanta Hawks in the East and the LA Clippers vs the New Orleans Pelicans in the West.

Each winning team will join the NBA playoffs, beginning on Saturday, in the number eight seed. The Pelicans got here by way of San Antonio, where they put up 113-103 to knock the Spurs out of the tournament and finish their season. The Hawks completely dominated Charlotte 132-103 in their first round to earn their spot. Both the Clippers and the Cavaliers wound up upside-down on their respective first round matches, and this is their last chance saloon.

“If you can make two guys guard you, it only opens up the floor for everybody else. I have to embrace it.”

Trae Young

In the East, the winner of this match will face number one seed Miami Heat, while the winner out West will tip off against the top team Phoenix Suns.

Atlanta Hawks @ Cleveland Cavaliers 7:30 p.m.

Atlanta’s Trae Young led the NBA this season in total points and assists, so Cleveland will have to figure out a way to deal with him. Double teaming him is not the answer, as Charlotte learned, because Atlanta have a roster that can take advantage of the open man, and Young has a knack for finding him. He is philosophical about it, saying, “If you can make two guys guard you, it only opens up the floor for everybody else. I have to embrace it.”

Cleveland have a point guard in Darius Garland who can match Young’s production, so the key for them will be to keep pace and work on slowing the Hawks down. It has worked well for the Cavs in the regular season, but this will be the first time that they face an Atlanta featuring all five starters in good health.

The game-swayer could be Cleveland’s All-Star Center Jarrett Allen. He is still questionable after suffering a fractured finger, but if he is in the game, Cleveland could shift rookie Evan Mobley forward and shore up their defense in the paint.

New Orleans Pelicans @ LA Clippers 10:00 p.m.

The Pelicans have had to scratch and claw their way through the entire season to get to this potential playoff spot. Without Zion Williamson this season, they have managed to top the Clippers in three out of four meetings during regulation play.

CJ McCollum joined New Orleans only in February, and the duo of him and Brandon Ingram, which put up a combined 59 points against the Spurs, could be difficult to contain for the Clippers. If LA pay the pair too much attention, though, the Pelicans have Jonas Valanciunas with long-range capabilities that can make the defense pay.

Going the other way, the Pelicans have a rookie in Herb Jones who can apply serious pressure on the Clippers attack. He averages nearly two steals per game and has shown himself to be a strong matchup for guards around the league. LA must look to minimize his influence on the defense if they are to make any headway at all.

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