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2021 Play-In Tournament - Indiana Pacers v Washington Wizards

Play-in Tourney Night Three: Pacers vs. Wizards

Russ Vibes
| Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

Last night might’ve proved why the play-in tournament should stick around next season. Now that was entertaining basketball. Both games had intense playoff energy mixed with march madness vibes. It won’t always happen this way but the NBA world was treated to clutch back-and-forth moments between the league’s most valuable players. All as a playoff appetizer. Of course, various teams and players negatively affected by this aren’t going to like the new format, but from a fan’s perspective, that was nothing but awesome.

In the less heralded, but still excellent game, Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies sent the Spurs home packing and will now play the Golden State Warriors on Friday night in San Francisco with the Western Conference 8th seed (and right to play Utah) on the line. If not for the GOAT LeBron James, the Lakers would be in a win or go home situation. But as he’s known to do, LeBron delivered in the clutch once again, even if Draymond Green blurred his vision with what should’ve been a flagrant foul. Eye-gouging is allowed?

“After Draymond’s finger to the eye, I was literally seeing three rims out there,” James said. “So I just shot at the middle one. And I was able to, with the grace from the man above, knock it down.”

The Lakers will now head to Phoenix looking to ruin Chris Paul’s postseason dreams once again. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though. We have one game to focus on tonight at 7 pm central time on TNT. The Wizards backcourt bros, Russ and Brad, are -3.5 favorites to send Sabonis and his Pacer Pals home. ESPN’s matchup predictor actually favors Indiana at 52.3% win probability, though it should be noted they are without Caris LeVert, Myles Turner, and Jeremy Lamb. Point guard Malcolm Brogdon is a game-time decision as he deals with hamstring issues but it would be surprising to see him not give it a go.

The winner is set to challenge the #1 seed 76ers and their powerful trio of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Tobias Harris. The Wizards swept the Pacers this season for whatever that’s worth.

Expected Starting Lineups:

Pacers

PG: M. Brogdon GTD
SG: J. Holiday
SF: D. McDermott
PF: O. Brissett
C: D. Sabonis

Wizards

PG: R. Westbrook
SG: Raul Neto
SF: Bradley Beal
PF: Rui Hachimura
C: Alex Len

Prediction: Sabonis goes off for a near monster triple-double as Indy gives him about 85 touches on the elbows and post, and in their endless screen/re-screen/hot-potato game with him. His teammates come up big around him and it’s still not enough. Russ and Beal combine for 71 points in the Wizards' win, 121-117.

Talk hoops here! And all hail Anthony Edwards.

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Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images