The NBA play-in game format is great – unless you’re trying to avoid it.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, Mavs star Luka Doncic and LeBron James have complained about the play-in game mainly because they won’t want to be a part of it.
James is the latest to criticize the format, saying after Sunday’s loss to the Toronto Raptors, “Whoever came up with that (expletive) needs to be fired.”
James is wrong. President of league operations Byron Spruell and his basketball operations staff might get raises.
The only reason James doesn’t like it now is because the Lakers are in danger of falling into the play-in game format and potentially missing the playoffs.
The play-in game format has fulfilled its intended effect. More games matter, and that’s what the NBA wanted.
The play-in format works like this: seeds 7-8 play each other and seeds 9-10 play each other. The winner of 7-8 gets the seventh seed and the loser of 7-8 plays the winner of 9-10. The winner of that game gets the eighth seed. The 7-8 seeds need to win just once to make the playoffs and 9-10 seeds need to win twice to make the playoffs.
Sunday’s Raptors-Lakers game was a perfect example of making a late-season game meaningful. In a season with no-play-in format, the game would have had little consequences. The Lakers would be locked into a playoff spot and the Raptors would be too far out of a playoff spot.
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