Play-In Tournament Viewing Guide For Jazz Fans

Apr 11, 2023, 2:45 PM | Updated: 2:55 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – The NBA Play-In tournament gets underway on Tuesday, and despite not participating in the games, Utah Jazz fans have plenty to root for.

The Jazz have a potential lottery pick on the line depending on the results of the play-in tournament, and the outcomes in both the Eastern and Western Conferences will play a role in determining where it lands.

Let’s look at how the Play-In tournament functions, and who Jazz fans should be rooting for.

Play-In Tournament Format And Schedule

The Play-In Tournament features a series of three games to determine the seventh and eighth seeds for the Eastern and Western Conference playoffs.

In game one, the team that finished with the seventh-best record in their conference will host the team that finished with the eighth-best record.

The winner of that game automatically qualifies for the playoffs as the seventh seed, and will open the postseason on the road against their conference’s second seed.

In game two, the ninth-seeded will host the team that finished with the 10th-best record in their conference, with the winner moving on to face the loser of the seven-eight matchup, in game three on Friday.

The game three winners will then move on to the playoffs, beginning their postseason on the road against the number one seed from that conference.

In the West, the Los Angeles Lakers finished with the seventh-best record and will host the eight-seeded Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday in game one.

On Wednesday, the ninth-seeded New Orleans Pelicans will host the 10th-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder in game two, with the winner of that game moving on to face the loser of the Lakers and Timberwolves matchup in game three on Friday.

In the Eastern Conference, the Miami Heat finished with the seventh-best record and will host the eight-seeded Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday in game one.

On Wednesday, the ninth-seeded Toronto Raptors will host the 10th-seeded Chicago Bulls in game two, with the winner of that game moving on to face the loser of the Heat and Hawks matchup in game three on Friday.

Who Should Jazz Fans Root For In The Play-In?

The Timberwolves owe the Jazz their first-round pick via the Rudy Gobert trade last July, so fans of the team should be rooting for the Timberwolves’ opponent at every stop.

That means on Tuesday night, Jazz fans should don their Lakers gear and root for LeBron James and company to push the Timberwolves into a pivotal game three on Friday.

In the Eastern Conference, Jazz fans should be rooting for Quin Snyder and the Hawks to beat the Heat, forcing Miami into a must-win Friday matchup.

Here’s why.

If the Heat were to miss the playoffs, their first-round draft pick would fall back into the lottery despite making the Play-In tournament.

From there the draft order is determined simply by the standings at the end of the season.

With the Heat finishing with the best record of all the teams in the Play-In tournament, they would own the 14th and final pick of the lottery, with the three other teams that also failed to make the playoffs drafting in front of them.

If the Heat lose game one against the Hawks on Tuesday, Jazz fans would be rooting for either the Raptors or Bulls to beat Miami in game three on Friday to keep the Heat out of the playoffs.

In game two, Jazz fans don’t have a rooting interest in the Eastern Conference, but should be rooting for the Thunder to knock off the Pelicans in the West.

If the Pelicans lose to the Thunder on Wednesday, they’ll be immediately eliminated from the postseason and will see their first-round pick fall into the lottery.

Jazz fans would then want to see the Thunder knock off the Timberwolves on Friday, ending their season short of the playoffs.

This is where it gets a little complicated.

The Pelicans and Timberwolves each finished the season with records of 42-40, and if both teams fail to win a play-in tournament game, their first-round draft picks would wind up in the lottery.

Since the teams had identical regular season records, the NBA would hold a random drawing to see which team would earn the higher pick in June’s draft, with both the Timberwolves and Pelicans having 50-50 odds

If the Timberwolves won that drawing, they would draft one spot ahead of the Pelicans, with their first-round pick heading to Utah.

And, in the best-case scenario, here’s what the final three picks of the draft lottery would look like.

The 44-38 Miami Heat would draft 14th after missing the postseason by way of losing both game one and game three of the Eastern Conference Play-In tournament.

The 42-40 New Orleans Pelicans would draft 13th after missing the playoffs by way of dropping game two of the Western Conference Play-In tournament and losing the tiebreaking drawing against the Timberwolves.

The 42-40 Minnesota Timberwolves would draft 12th by losing both game one and game three of the Western Conference Play-In tournament, and by winning the tiebreaking drawing over the Pelicans.

Ultimately, the best-case scenario for Jazz fans is for the Timberwolves, Heat, and Pelicans to go winless in the Play-In tournament, maximizing the value of Minnesota’s first-round draft pick.

Download the new & improved KSL Sports app from Utah’s sports leader. You can stream live radio, video and stay up to date on all of your favorite teams.

Ben Anderson is the Utah Jazz insider for KSL Sports and the co-host of Jake and Ben from 10-12p with Jake Scott on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone. Find Ben on Twitter at @BensHoops or on Instagram @BensHoops.

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Play-In Tournament Viewing Guide For Jazz Fans