NBA Play-In Tournament: Overview, Odds, & Predictions

NBA Play-In Tournament

  • The NBA Play-In Tournament returns for the second season in a row!
  • There are some surprise competitors in the Play-In tournament, including 2020 NBA Playoff standouts the Boston Celtics, and the reigning NBA Champion Los Angeles Lakers!
  • Young squads like the Charlotte Hornets and the Memphis Grizzlies are working to get a taste of the post-season!

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For the second season in a row, NBA fans will be witnessing a Play-In tournament between four teams in the Eastern Conference and four teams in the Western Conference. Now that the NBA regular season has come to a close, these eight teams will be competing for the right to participate in the 2021 NBA Playoffs. We’re going to break down the process, matchups, and odds for the participating teams in the 2021 NBA Play-In Tournament!

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Who Are the Favorites to Advance in the Play-In?

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Team Odds to Win NBA Championship
Los Angeles Lakers +400
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Boston Celtics +8000
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Golden State Warriors +15000
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Washington Wizards +20000
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Memphis Grizzlies +20000
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Indiana Pacers +25000
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San Antonio Spurs +25000
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Charlotte Hornets +25000
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2021 NBA Play-In Tournament Matchups

NBA Play-In Tournament Matchups

Eastern Conference

(7) Boston Celtics vs (8) Washington Wizards (9) Indiana Pacers vs (10) Charlotte Hornets

Western Conference

(7) Los Angeles Lakers vs (8) Golden State Warriors (9) Memphis Grizzlies vs (10) San Antonio Spurs

NBA Play-In Winner Predictions

Eight teams will enter the Play-In, but only four teams will leave with the opportunity to join the NBA Playoffs. Here are our predictions on who will continue to fight for an NBA Championship!

(7) Los Angeles Lakers (42-30)


The Los Angeles Lakers have a tough road ahead of them as they look to qualify for the NBA Playoffs. They’ve struggled with injuries and inconsistency all season – just recently seeing LeBron James exit their final regular-season game after re-aggravating his ankle injury.

Los Angeles will match up against the Warriors, where the Lakers went 2-1 this season by a point average of 119.3 to 101.0. Their strength is on the inside, as Golden State struggles to defend their size.

We see the Lakers breezing through the Play-In first round, giving them an automatic bid into the NBA Playoffs.

(6) Boston Celtics (36-36)


The Boston Celtics have looked nothing like the team that they were in last year’s playoffs. The once solid defensive team is now inconsistent when trying to stop other teams, and their role players struggle to support their stars.

The Celtics still have the star power to compete with the Wizards in their matchup, but their defense is too unreliable to count on. With All-Star Jaylen Brown out for the remainder of the season, the Celtics can no longer be considered a lock for the playoffs.

Even still, playoff rotations shorten and few teams can match up against the sheer scoring output of Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker. While the Celtics could struggle to get out of the first phase of the play-in, they are still stronger than their potential later opponents.

(8) Golden State Warriors (39-33)


The Golden State Warriors have been brilliant in the second half of the season, even closing out their regular season campaign on an 8-2 run. Their form is in their favor, on top of the brilliant performances of two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Stephen Curry – who at 33 years old captured another scoring title.

They’re expected to struggle against the Los Angeles Lakers though. While the Warriors are improved defensively, they are glaringly lacking in the size department. Steve Kerr’s side has the scoring to make it a challenge, but their defense is likely to struggle.

While they might drop their first game against the Lakers, they are definitely favored against the likes of the Memphis Grizzlies or San Antonio Spurs.

(8) Washington Wizards (34-38)


How can a one-way team find themselves as a favorite for the NBA Playoffs coming out of the Play-In? Well, when you’ve got an attack as potent as the Wizards, you’ve always got a chance.

The Wizards are led by two of the most intense players in the NBA. Professional scorer Bradley Beal and all-time triple-double leader Russell Westbrook can keep Washington competitive in any game.

Their defense may be suspect, but the lower teams in the Play-In tournament just can’t match their firepower. Save for a massive collapse, Washington is a quality choice to make the playoffs.


Editor’s Picks


When Is the NBA Play-In Tournament?

The 2021 NBA Play-In Tournament begins on Tuesday, May 18th. The Play-In Tournament will conclude on Friday, May 21st. The NBA Playoffs will begin the day after the tournament’s conclusion on May 22nd, 2021.

Which Teams Are Participating in the Play-In Tournament?

Upon the conclusion of the NBA regular season, the participants in the Play-In Tournament are set. In the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics, Washington Wizards, Indiana Pacers, and Charlotte Hornets will be competing for the seventh and eighth seed in the 2021 NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs.

In the Western Conference the San Antonio Spurs, Memphis Grizzlies, Golden State Warriors, and Los Angeles Lakers will be competing in the Play-In Tournament. It took until the last day of the regular season to decide if the Lakers would be competing in the Play-In, as the Portland Trail Blazers’ victory over the Denver Nuggets sealed the Lakers’ fate.

How Does the Play-In Tournament Work?

The Play-In Tournament is separated by conference. The team that finished seventh in their conference will host a matchup against the team that finished eighth in their conference. The winner of this matchup will win the seventh seed in the 2021 NBA Playoffs.

The other Play-In matchup sees the team that finished ninth in their conference, facing off against the team that finished tenth. The loser of this match will be eliminated from playoff contention, while the winner will play the loser of the matchup between the seventh and eighth seed.

The winner of the final game between the loser of seven versus eight and the winner of nine versus ten will eventually be named the eighth seed in their respective conference playoff.

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Christian Jope

Expert on NBA

Christian Jope is a writer, social media strategist, and data analyst. A Queen’s University Alumni, Christian is an author and social media strategist with Raptors Cage, while also working closely with MLSE and Canada Basketball through community-driven events.



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