NBA play-in tournament: Rules, predictions on which teams will earn playoff berths

The 2022 NBA play-in tournament features four teams in each conference fighting for the last two spots in the NBA playoffs in the East and the West. The NBA debuted the play-in tournament in its current iteration last season, and it produced some memorable basketball despite the loud public objections of LeBron James. This year’s play-in tournament is again loaded with star-power as some of the game’s biggest names compete to keep their season going.

The 2022 NBA play-in tournament kicks off with a pair of matchups between the No. 7 seed and No. 8 seed in each conference, with the winner automatically earning the No. 7 seed in the NBA playoff bracket. In the East, the Brooklyn Nets will host the Cleveland Cavaliers. In the West, the Minnesota Timberwolves will host the Los Angeles Clippers. The winner in the East gets the Boston Celtics in the first round of the playoffs, while the West winner will face the Memphis Grizzlies.

The 9-10 matchups will happen on Wednesday. The Atlanta Hawks host the Charlotte Hornets in the East, while the New Orleans Pelicans host the San Antonio Spurs in the West. The winners will advance to play the losers of the 7-8 game. The winner of that matchup will get the No. 8 seed in each conference.

We’ll explain how the play-in tournament works, and provide predictions for what to expect as the final playoff spots are determined. You can bet on the play-in tournament and the rest of the 2022 NBA Playoffs at DraftKings Sportsbook.

2022 NBA play-in tournament schedule

Tuesday, April 12

East: No. 8 Cleveland Cavaliers at No. 7 Brooklyn Nets, 7 pm, TNT

West: No. 8 Los Angeles Clippers at No. 7 Minnesota Timberwolves, 9:30 pm, TNT

Wednesday, April 13

East: No. 10 Charlotte Hornets at No. 9 Atlanta Hawks, 7 pm, ESPN

West: No. 10 San Antonio Spurs at No. 9 New Orleans Pelicans, 9:30 pm, ESPN

(all times Eastern)

2022 NBA play-in tournament predictions

Photo by Sarah Stier / Getty Images

The Net will beat the Cavs to earn the No. 7 seed in the East

Brooklyn was the preseason favorite to win the 2022 championship. Then Kyrie Irving was unavailable for most of the season because he refused to get to the Covid vaccine, and James Harden eventually forced a trade to the Philadelphia 76ers. While this Nets team looks nothing like the one we picked to win it all in Oct., they should still have enough to easily beat the Cavs and secure the No. 7 seed in the East.

Kevin Durant still holds the title of the best scorer in the world. His remarkable playoff performance against the Milwaukee Bucks last year nearly pushed Brooklyn to the conference finals despite injuries to Irving and Harden. Irving is now available for home games after New York City partially lifted its vaccine mandate. The Nets will have the two best players on the floor. Unfortunately, Cleveland doesn’t have the talent to compete.

The Cavs were incredible this year until injuries took their toll. Cleveland will be playing without star center Jarrett Allen, as well as depth forward Dean Wade and guard Collin Sexton, who has been out with a knee injury most of the season. Cleveland’s future is bright thanks to rookie stud Evan Mobley, but it feels like the Cavs just don’t have enough to win this game.

The Wolves will beat the Clippers for the No. 7 seed in the West

It hasn’t been easy to be a Wolves fan over the last two decades, but it finally feels like the franchise is headed in the right direction. Minnesota won 46 games this year, which is the second most for the team since 2004. Karl-Anthony Towns has put together an All-NBA caliber season in the middle, while Anthony Edwards continues to emerge as one of the best young guards in the league.

The Clippers still don’t have Kawhi Leonard, who has been out all year recovering from a torn ACL. Paul George is in the lineup after battling injuries most of the season, and Reggie Jackson and Nic Batum provide a solid supporting cast. The question for LA is if they can slow down a Wolves offense that has been one of the best in basketball after the All-Star break. With a hungry home crowd behind them and a deep roster of offensive weapons, we’ll take the Wolves to win this game and grab the No. 7 seed.

We’ll take the Hawks over the Hornets, and the Pelicans over the Spurs

The Hawks’ charmed run to the Eastern Conference Finals last year is still fresh in our mind. Trae Young has had another amazing season, but injuries and inconsistency to his supporting cast pushed the Hawks down the standings. We still think Atlanta is dangerous if they can make the playoffs, and expect them to defeat LaMelo Ball and the Hornets to keep their season alive.

We’ll take the Pelicans over the Spurs in the West 9-10 matchup. The Pelicans are loaded with offensive firepower even without injured star Zion Williamson. New Orleans has Brandon Ingram, CJ McCollum, and Jonas Valanciunas to carry the offense, while rookie stud Herb Jones can defend anyone on the other end. We’ll pick the Pelicans to keep their season alive.

Give us the Hawks and the Pelicans to make the playoffs as the No. 8 seed

We’ll take Atlanta over Cleveland in an elimination game to make the playoffs. We’ll take the Pelicans to upset the Clippers to grab the final spot in the West playoff bracket. Anything can happen in a one-game scenario with the season on the line, but it feels like New Orleans and Atlanta still have more basketball in front of them.

How the NBA play-in tournament works

Here’s a help guide via NBA.com.

Teams finishing in the No. 7 and No. 8 seed in the regular season have more margin for error in the play-in tournament. The winner of the 7-8 games automatically makes the playoffs as the No. 7 seed, while the loser plays the winner of the 9-10 matchup for the No. 8 seed in each conference.

Teams that are eliminated in the play-in tournament will be in the draft lottery, which is ordered by overall record.

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