For the second season in a row, there will be a Play-In Tournament between the end of the regular season and start of the playoffs.
The difference this season is the No. 7 and No. 8 seed in each conference are up for grabs, not just the No. 8 seed.
Which team currently in the mix for the Play-In Tournament is the most dangerous? Our NBA.com Staff weighs in...
Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles): It's the Dallas Mavericks for a couple of reasons.
One, they've been much better since the All-Star break, going 15-11 on the strength of the league's fifth-best offence. Two, they have Luka Doncic, who has the ability to single-handedly beat any team in the league. Could he do it four times against a top seed? I don't know, but the Mavericks have enough talent around him in Kristaps Porzingis, Jalen Brunson, Josh Richardson, Maxi Kleber and Tim Hardaway Jr. to do something if they're peaking at the right time.
The Golden State Warriors pose a similar threat with Stephen Curry, who is on a historic run right now, but I don't have nearly as much faith in their supporting cast.
Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21): If I'm in the East, I don't want to see the Miami Heat.
It's been a weird year for Miami, and while part of it has been due to injuries and bad luck, the team has struggled with sticking to its identity, exemplified by Jimmy Butler's most recent claim that the team was "being soft." As discouraging as their uncharacteristic play might be, it's that level of accountability that makes the team scary to me.
One game after being called out, the Heat earned a gutsy win over the talented, yet short-handed, Brooklyn Nets, courtesy of a game-winner from Bam Adebayo. The phrase "Heat Culture" is sometimes overused but it's real, and it's why the team would be a headache for any top seed to deal with for an extended series.
We saw it last year and we could see it again in a month's time.
I don't think the Heat are talented enough to just flip the proverbial switch but I do believe that if they build some momentum during the stretch run, they're talented enough, deep enough and coached well enough to make things extremely difficult for a top seed in the East.
Kyle Irving (@KyleIrv_): I'm going with the Golden State Warriors.
Although Scott has a point with having limited faith in the team's supporting cast, the presence of Stephen Curry alone makes them a terrifying first-round opponent for any No. 1 or 2 seed if they were to make it through the Play-In Tournament.
Curry has been otherworldly, even for himself, as of late. He's scored 30 or more points in 13 of his last 14 games. Five of those being 40-point games while also adding in a career-high 53-point outburst in there. He's averaging a ridiculous 37.6 points per game over that span, shooting 46.9 percent on 13.9 3-point attempts.
🔥 Become franchise scoring leader- NBA (@NBA) April 19, 2021
🔥 NBA-record 44 3PM in 5-game stretch
🔥 Career-best 10 straight 30-point games
What will Stephen Curry do next? 🤯
WARRIORS/76ERS - Tonight at 7:30pm/et on ESPN pic.twitter.com/BFeu2J27NG
Curry has been playing with a sense of urgency, single-handedly trying to assure that the Warriors find themselves with some sort of opportunity to make the playoffs, whether it be clinching a top-six seed or just sliding into the Play-In spot.
If the Warriors fall into a Play-In spot and Curry gets potentially a game (or two) head start to heat up before taking on the No. 1 or 2 seed in the West, that could be bad news for the top-seeded team.
Juan Estévez (@JuanEstevez90): I'll go with the Memphis Grizzlies.
There are a couple of reasons why. First of all, they've been playing very well lately, winning nine of their last 15 games. (They would've been 10-5 were it not for that miraculous Luka Doncic buzzer-beater). The best news for them is that they've done it without the best version of Ja Morant (at least for his standard), although it looks like he's starting to find his groove.
More good news? Jaren Jackson Jr. is back after sitting out the first 56 games of the season. He's played well in the three games he's appeared in, averaging 16.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in 21.1 minutes.
So with the way that Jonas Valanciunas is playing, the more than solid production from the supporting cast, the expectation of better games from Morant and the return of their second-best player, things are definitely looking up for Memphis in the right moment of the season.
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