LeBron and the Lakers to face Steph Curry's Warriors in NBA play-in tournament

ByMahmoud Mohamed KABC logo
Wednesday, May 19, 2021
Here's how the new NBA play-in tournament works
The Los Angles Lakers have clinched a spot in the NBA's play-in tournament. Here's how the new format works.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- LeBron James has long had an exciting, competitive rivalry against Steph Curry in the NBA postseason.

This year looks a bit different though.

James and the Cleveland Cavaliers faced Curry's Golden State Warriors an unprecedented four consecutive times in the NBA Finals from 2015 to 2018, with the Warriors coming out on top three times.

This year, James and the injury-riddled Lakers are facing a diminished Warriors squad - not in the Finals, but in the NBA's new play-in tournament for teams who finish in the middle of the regular-season rankings.

Basketball fans might be excited by the prospect of another James-Curry matchup, but James himself isn't a fan of the NBA's new play-in tournament.

He recently declared, "Whoever came up with that (expletive) needs to be fired."

James tweaked his ankle during the Lakers' 110-98 win over the New Orleans Pelicans Sunday. However, the four-time NBA champion promised fans he will play Wednesday night.

Here's how the play-in format works:

7 vs. 8: The team that finished seventh in the conference for the regular season hosts the eighth-place team in a one-game matchup. The winner of that game earns the No. 7 seed in the playoffs.

9 vs. 10: The ninth-place team hosts the 10th-place team in a one-game matchup. The loser of that game is eliminated from the postseason entirely.

The loser of the 7-8 game hosts the winner of the 9-10 game in a one-game matchup.

The winner earns the No. 8 seed in the actual playoffs, and the loser of that game will be eliminated from the postseason.

From that point, the playoffs will proceed as usual.

The Lakers clinched 7th place by regular-season schedule on Sunday. So they play the Warriors Wednesday in a single game to determine which seed they would be in a traditional eight-seed playoffs.

If they win, the Lakers become the 7th seed and take on the Phoenix Suns.

If the Lakers lose, they take on the winner of the Memphis Grizzlies vs. the San Antonio Spurs. The winner of that game becomes the 8th seed and faces the Utah Jazz in the first round of the playoffs.

If the Lakers lose both of those games they will be eliminated from the playoffs and won't be able to defend their title.

A version of the play-in tournament idea was implemented last summer during the restart in the bubble, but this season will be the first time the full play-in tournament is in use.

It might not last. As it stands, the idea was only approved by the NBA's Board of Governors for this season and the decision will be made in the summer whether the play-in should be fully implemented for future seasons.