The play-in tournament first round has been packed with everything from blowouts to historic performances. Many were skeptical of the play-in games, but the games have been great to watch. With so much to watch there were five big takeaways from the play-in tournament first round.
This year was packed with stars and up-and-comers. Lebron James, Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, Bradley Beal and Anthony Davis are just a few of the bonafide stars in the play-in, but there is some young, up-and-coming talent that has been showcased as well. Jayson Tatum, LaMelo Ball, Ja Morant and Keldon Johnson round out the young stars who showed out over the past few days.
With the first four games finished, there were some key takeaways that we can say happened during the course of the play-in. Here are five of the biggest takeaways we saw thus far.
1.) The Lakers are Still Working to Get Back to Full Form
The Lakers beat the Golden State Warriors 103-100 to secure the 7th seed and play the Phoenix Suns in a seven-game series on Sunday. The Warriors gave a valiant effort, but a miraculous three at the end of the shot clock by LeBron James helped the Lakers secure a three-point win. The win was great, but the Lakers definitely have more than a few holes they need to get patched up before they go on the road to play the Suns.
One of the main strengths coming into this game was that the Lakers had a huge size advantage over the Warriors. Andre Drummond started the game and was expected to be a huge part of the offense but was having a hard time adjusting to the Lakers style of play. He was constantly trying to get the ball down in the post which clogged the lane for guys James and Davis to score.
Guard Dennis Schroder also had a rough night going 3-14 from the floor and 1-6 from behind the arc. He will be a key component to the Laker’s title hopes as he is looked at as the third option for this Lakers team.
Even with those struggles, the Lakers should still be the favorites coming out of the west if they are healthy. If they can get back to championship form, they should have no problem getting through an injury-riddled western conference.
2.) Stephen Curry is That Dude
The Warrior’s loss is disappointing for Warriors fans, but Curry should proudly keep his head up from this one. Curry dropped 37 points on 6-9 from downtown which is really just an average night when you think about the nights he’s had these past few months.
Play after play Curry is double and triple-teamed, but most of the time it doesn’t even matter. The Davidson product still has range out to the half-court line which makes him that much more dangerous.
Many came into this season having doubts about Curry and if he’ll ever return to MVP type form, but he’s silenced all of his critics this season. His performance against the Lakers was spectacular considering he was going up against the defending champs without his running mate Klay Thompson.
The Warriors will be back in the title mix once Klay is back, but Curry has shown he is still the man down in Frisco.
3.) It’s Time to Give Jayson Tatum Elite Status
It seems like the Boston Celtics have been the “team of the future” for the past 5 years now. They have had a disappointing season thus far going just 36-36 with the East’s seventh-best record. But in the Celtics 118-100 win over the Washington Wizards in the 7 and 8 Eastern Conference play-in game, one guy stood out from the rest.
Jayson Tatum showed out and put the team on his back as he scored 50 points on 32 shots to secure the Celtics’ 7th seed spot. He went 5-12 from behind the arc to go along with 8 rebounds and 4 assists.
“Tatum is a great player. Not a great young player. A great player. He’s going to be MVP of this league real soon,” said Wizards coach Scott Brooks.
The way Tatum played put the whole league on notice. Though the Celtics have been average at best this season, Tatum has been a constant even when he was dealing with the long-term effects of COVID-19.
It is now time to label him as an elite player along with the likes of Kawhi Leonard, Damian Lillard and Paul George. He has been to the conference finals three out of the last four years and has arguably been the best player on those teams. He has elevated his game to another level and it is time for the rest of the league to give him his flowers.
4.) Russell Westbrook is Not a Playoff Performer
It was a typical Russell Westbrook type of game in the Wizard’s loss to the Celtics. He was not only horrific shooting the ball, going 6-18 from the field and 0-4 from three, but he also had 4 turnovers and had a plus-minus of -19. But this is what most can expect from the UCLA product.
Granted Westbrook has had some great playoff performances in the past, those days are behind him. Destructive chaos is one way to describe Westbrook’s playoff performances up to this point in his career.
The Wizards are a horrible defensive team partially due to the fact that Westbrook is always looking to gamble for steals. He is often trying to play passing lanes when he should be playing it safe to stop drives and kick-outs.
Clutch time is often where we don’t know what we’ll see from Westbrook. Particularly on the offensive end where he can be sporadic and irresponsible with the basketball. In end-of-game situations, we just don’t know what we will get from Westbrook and that is the most frustrating part.
Westbrook will go down as one of the most exciting players to ever play the game, but as his time dwindles down, one could ask if he should accept being a third or fourth option on a championship team to secure the playoff success that he has been criticized for his entire career.
5.) The Play-in Has Been a Blessing in Disguise
“Whoever came up with that s*** needs to be fired,” said LeBron James when he was asked about the play-in tournament.
Though the play-in was looked at as a tedious and unneeded way for the NBA to make extra money, it has been truly a blessing in disguise. The first four games were packed with great performances and exciting games.
The Lakes-Warriors play-in will go down as an instant classic with both sides playing until the final buzzer sounded. Jayson Tatum’s 50-point performance was spectacular as he showed his ability to be a three-level scorer and have the intangibles to lead the Celtics to what was thought to be a tough out against the Washington Wizards.
Even the 9-10 games were fun to watch. The Pacers routed the Hornets 144-117 in Indiana with the Pacers completely shutting down rookie sensation LaMelo Ball and keeping leading scorer Terry Rozier in check the entire game. Ja Morant had a great performance against the San Antonio Spurs leading the Memphis Grizzlies to a 100-96 win.
Overall the play-in tournament first round has been nothing short of exciting. It has brought a different element to the playoffs and has given teams more incentive no to tank this season. I think we can all agree whoever came up with the play-in idea does not deserve to be fired.
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