With the defending champions in a late-season slump, LeBron James has made it known that he’s not a fan of the NBA’s play-in tournament.
"Whoever came up with that s--- needs to be fired," James told reporters following the Lakers’ loss Sunday night to the Raptors.
The Lakers are now 36-28 on the season, the same record as the fifth-place Mavericks and sixth-place Blazers. Finishing seventh this season does not mean automatic entry into the postseason. The No. 7 and No. 8 seeds will face each other, with the winner earning the seventh seed. The loser of that game will then play the winner of a matchup between the No. 9 and No. 10 teams for the eighth seed. Here’s a visual representation of the play-in tournament from the NBA:
The play-in tournament will not directly impact the Sixers, who have already clinched a playoff spot and lead the Eastern Conference by a half-game. Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey was awake after his team’s overtime win in San Antonio, though, and weighed in on the topic:
What other pro sports executive tweets a “Big Lebowski" GIF at 1:36 a.m. ET?
As Morey said, there are indeed a lot of teams still in play-in contention late in the season. The 72-game schedule has something to do with that, as well. Finishing seventh and then being eliminated with two consecutive play-in losses would be a bummer, but it doesn’t seem like an egregiously unfair outcome. Of course, a team in seventh place might feel differently about the issue.
Unless the Sixers falter over their final eight games and drop to third in the East, they’ll face one of the play-in winners in the first round. If the season ended Monday, here’s what the East’s initial play-in matchups would be:
- No. 7 Celtics vs. No. 8 Hornets
- No. 9 Pacers vs. No. 10 Wizards