Russell Westbrook, Bradley Beal lead Wizards’ improbable run into play-in game; East matchups set

The NBA play-in game matchups are taking shape.

Washington defeated Charlotte on Sunday, earning eighth place with a 34-38 record and will play seventh-place Boston in an Eastern Conference play-in game on Tuesday. The Pacers defeated Toronto and will get the ninth spot and a matchup against the 10th-place Hornets in the other East play-in game.

Designed to create excitement, make more games meaningful and curtail tanking, the play-in game format added intrigue to the final days of the 2020-21 NBA season.

Teams either tried to avoid or make the play-in game.

Russell Westbrook (4) surpassed Oscar Robertson's career mark for triple-doubles and Bradley Beal finished No. 2 in the NBA in scoring to lead the Wizards into the play-in tournament. (Photo: Will Newton, Getty Images)

The Wizards produced a memorable end to their regular season. They were 17-32 on April 6 and in 13th-place in the East. The playoffs did not seem probable. But Bradley Beal kept scoring, Russell Westbrook racked up triple-doubles and the Wizards started winning.

The Wizards finished the season 17-6, the second-best winning percentage in the league in the final six weeks of the regular season.

In the West, the Los Angeles Lakers need a win against New Orleans and a Portland loss to Denver later on Sunday to avoid the play-in game. If Portland wins, the Lakers will end up in seventh place and in the play-in game against either Memphis or Golden State. The Grizzlies play the Warriors on Sunday with the winner grabbing eighth place and the loser finishing ninth.

San Antonio will finish in the 10th place and play the ninth-place team.

Here’s how the play-in game format works:

The seventh-and eighth-place teams play each other and the winner earns the No. 7 seed. The loser of that game plays the winner of the 9-10 game. The winner of that game becomes the No. 8 seed. To give the teams that had a better record during the regular season an advantage, teams 7-8 need to win just one play-in game to advance and teams 9-10 need to win two games.

The play-in games take place Tuesday-Friday with the 16-team, best-of-7 playoffs beginning Saturday.

Here is the play-in game schedule (all times Eastern):

Tuesday

Eastern Conference

Tenth-place Charlotte vs. ninth-place Indiana, 6:30 p.m., TNT

Eighth-place Washington vs. seventh-place Boston, 9 p.m., TNT

Western Conference

Wednesday

Tenth-place San Antonio vs. ninth-place team, ESPN

Eighth-place team vs. Seventh-place team, ESPN

Eastern Conference

Thursday

Ninth-10th winner vs. 7-8 loser, 8 p.m., TNT

Western Conference

Friday

Ninth-10th winner vs. 7-8 loser, ESPN

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