This is not something we expected to be writing about this year: the NBA’s play-in tournament. But right now — and barring a sensational finish to the regular season — that’s the route Brooklyn will have to take to fill its increasingly elusive dream of a parade ending at Flatbush and Atlantic.
As Bobby Marks tweeted Sunday after the Nets loss to the Celtics...
A three way tie for 8, 9 and 10 in the East- Brooklyn, Charlotte and Atlanta.— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) March 6, 2022
The Nets are in danger of having to win 2 elimination games just to have the opportunity to face either Miami, Philly, Milwaukee or Chicago in round 1.
Nets play at Charlotte on Tues.
So how does it work? The Nets regular season ends on April 10 vs. Indiana at Barclays Center. Two days later, the play-in tournaments start in each conference. There are six total games involving eight teams as part of the play-in tournament, split up between the two conferences.
As ESPN laid it out in a primer last year...
The teams that finish Nos. 1-6 in each conference will be guaranteed playoff spots, while team Nos. 7-10 in the standings will enter the play-in. Any team that finishes worse than No. 10 will be in the lottery. Since there is a chance for teams to finish with an uneven number of games played because of COVID-19 complications, the NBA will use winning percentage to determine the standings.
Here’s how the games will work:
Game 1: The No. 7 team in the standings by winning percentage will host the No. 8 team, with the winner earning the No. 7 seed in the playoffs. The losing team gets another chance in Game 3.
Game 2: The No. 9 team will host the No. 10 team, with the winner moving on to Game 3. The loser is eliminated and enters the NBA draft lottery.
Game 3: The loser of the No. 7 vs. No. 8 matchup will host the winner of the No. 9 vs. No. 10 matchup, with the victor grabbing the No. 8 seed in the postseason. The loser of Game 3 also enters the lottery.
This means that the teams with the seventh-highest and eighth-highest winning percentages will have two opportunities to win one game to earn a playoff spot, while the teams with the ninth-highest and 10th-highest winning percentages need to win two straight games to advance.
For the Nets, getting into the sixth spot seems close to impossible. As of Monday morning, the Nets are 32-33 with 17 games left. They’re on a four-game losing streak —including two with Kevin Durant — and a 3-7 record over the last 10. They are five and a half games behind the Cavaliers who are the sixth seed, six in the loss column.
Moreover, of their new “Big Three,” only KD can be counted on. Kyrie Irving can only play in six of the last 17 and one of the last eight. Ben Simmons is still ramping up — and rehabbing his back stiffness. The most optimistic scenario has Simmons returning on March 18 vs. the Blazers. That would mean he could play 12 games, only three as part of the “Big Three” on March 23 in Memphis, March 26 in Miami and April 2 in Atlanta. And of course, if the Nets wind up playing the Raptors in the play-in, Irving couldn’t play in either New York or Toronto.
There’ll be another unwelcome consequence if the Nets fail to make the playoffs. Their first rounder, owed to Houston as part of the James Harden trade, will become a lottery pick.
In other words, things are bad.