Emotion and drama prove the NBA Play-In Tournament works

Patrick Beverley let his emotions run free after the Timberwolves eliminated the Clippers in a Play-In game.

Patrick Beverley jumped on a table, then cracked open a post-game beer for the world to see and used so many big words the league fined him $30,000. Miles Bridges briefly lost control of his emotions, threw his spokesman, and was fined $50,000. Clint Capela was so thrilled that he punched himself several times in the chest.

The NBA announces that the 2022 playoffs begin on Saturday.

Technically, that’s correct. It is also anything but the truth. They have already started. The emotions of this week alone prove it.

On the NBA schedule this weekend are eight different Game 1s. Match 1s are cool, but neither team’s season will end on Saturday or Sunday. And none of what happens in those games this weekend will match the drama the league offered when the Play-In tournament began on Tuesday, and more drama is certain when the final games of the Play-In round take place. friday.

On Tuesday, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant earned a playoff berth when Brooklyn edged Cleveland, then Beverley and Minnesota went wild after clinching a Western Conference playoff berth by edging out the Los Angeles Clippers.

Wednesday was essentially two Game 7s – Atlanta, with Capela slapping his chest in celebration, went on to end Charlotte’s season, while New Orleans went on to end San Antonio’s season. Bridges threw his mouthpiece as he left the field after being ejected, and the mouthguard hit a teenage girl.

“I was aiming for a guy who was yelling at me,” Bridges said, calling his actions unacceptable and saying he would accept any penalty the NBA sent him – hours later the NBA fined him. He also wants to reach out to the girl and apologize, he said.

Nothing justifies what he did, and he did not try to justify his actions. He had never thrown anything into the crowd, he said. But the playoffs were on the line and he lost his mind.

“I apologize, of course,” Bridges said.

And on Friday, two more Game 7s await — Atlanta plays Cleveland for the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference, New Orleans visits the Clippers for the No. 8 seed in the West.

“I mean, it was amazing,” Minnesota coach Chris Finch said of the atmosphere at Tuesday’s game at the Timberwolves’ home court against the Clippers. “Walking there for the jump ball, you could tell it was going to be an electric night. The crowd was in it from the jump. … it was unreal.

In other words, it felt like the playoffs.

That’s because it’s basically the playoffs.

The NBA separates the regular season, the Play-In tournament, and the playoffs in terms of statistics. For record-keeping purposes, the all-time lists only consider regular season numbers – otherwise, LeBron James would have already passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the league’s all-time leading scorer, which won’t officially happen until the middle of next season if James is healthy.

And the playoffs are a 16-team tournament, not a 20-team tournament. Finch didn’t get a playoff victory on his record Tuesday, in the eyes of the league. The good thing is. It’s not forgotten, but it doesn’t count.

But the Play-In has teams playing for their lives in the playoffs. It’s a Game 7 feel. Game 7s don’t happen in the regular season. Bridges certainly wouldn’t have lost his mind if it was a throw away game in January.

It was different.

There are big NBA games all season, sure, but no win-win or homecoming moments until this time of year. More will come over the next two months, but there’s no guarantee of Game 7 in the playoffs.

Play-In makes them automatic.

The Play-In tournament was not universally loved when NBA commissioner Adam Silver first floated the idea. He got off to a kind of wobbly start, put in place during the reboot bubble at Walt Disney World two years ago to make up for the fact that a full 82-game season wouldn’t be played.

Portland dominated Memphis in that first Play-In game, at a gym that had no mainstream fans – it was the bubble, remember – but was still packed with players from other teams who just wanted to be there and experience the atmosphere. It was loud, there were cheers, and a Saturday afternoon in mid-August made it clear that the NBA had found the perfect wrinkle to serve as a prequel to Round 1 of the upcoming Aprils.

James wasn’t always a fan of the format. “Whoever came up with this…should be fired,” he once said. That was before the Los Angeles Lakers needed the Play-In to qualify for the playoffs last year, and before the Lakers didn’t even qualify for the Play-In this year.

James was wrong on this take. And even though Silver has pretty much confirmed that the Play-In is here to stay, it’s still not officially official. It will be soon enough.

“What we’re seeing is a much bigger impact essentially on the last month of the season where teams are either jockeying into the play-in tournament itself or jockeying out of the play-in tournament. with a locked sixth seed,” Silver said last week. “We’re happy with that. this league.

Like it should be. Because it works.

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