Steve Believes: 2022 NBA Play-In Round Predictions, Part 1

   It’s been nearly two months since I’ve blogged about sports, due to the fact that I’ve had other Art Infliction related projects to tend to between this past Valentine’s Day and today. But given how ahead of schedule that I’ve been in my pre-writes lately, I decided to hoop it up with sports predicting via my predictions for the first four Play-In games of the 2022 NBA Playoffs. The matchups and predictions are listed via the bullet points below:

  • Eastern Conference #8 Cleveland Cavaliers Vs. Eastern Conference #7 Brooklyn Nets-This is the first time that the Cavaliers have been in the postseason without LeBron James playing for them since the 1997-98 season, while the Nets closed the season on a four-game winning streak to earn the East’s top Play-In seed. The Cavaliers have been a nice story this season under head coach J.B. Bickerstaff and their top four scorers (Darius Garland, Jarrett Allen, Collin Sexton, Evan Mobley) are all players that are 23 years of age or younger, so the Cavaliers have a bright future ahead. But the future isn’t now, because I can’t go against a Kevin Durant-led team in a one-game playoff, so I’ll take the Nets in this one.
  • Western Conference #8 Los Angeles Clippers VsWestern Conference #7 Minnesota Timberwolves-Like the Cavaliers, the Timberwolves have a bright future ahead with a pair of 26-year-olds in Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell, and a 20-year old in Anthony Edwards. However, I can’t go against a Clippers team that gained experience with their deep playoff run last season, along with the fact that they have a five-game winning streak heading into this game. So with both of those factors being said, I like Tyronn Lue’s bunch in this one.
  • Eastern Conference #10 Charlotte Hornets VsEastern Conference #9 Atlanta Hawks-The Hornets are back in the Eastern Conference Play-In round as a 10-seed, and are aiming for an outcome that’s the complete opposite of the 144-117 drubbing that they received from the Indiana Pacers last season. However, they will be one-and-done again, as I can’t go against a Hawks team that A) Advanced all the way to last season’s Eastern Conference Finals and B) Are led by the lethal Trae Young. 
  • Western Conference #10 San Antonio Spurs VsWestern Conference #9 New Orleans Pelicans-The Pelicans improved slightly since their February 8 trade acquisition of CJ McCollum, as they went 14-14 since acquiring the star guard from the Portland Trail Blazers. Meanwhile, the Spurs feature a team of Dejounte Murray and a bunch of no-names, which is coached by their one constant in head coach Gregg Popovich. Popovich, including last season’s Play-In game against the Memphis Grizzlies, has coached in 285 playoff games, winning 170 of them. This game will be playoff win number 171 for him because I don’t see Pelicans rookie head coach Willie Green beating Coach Pop in this one.

So yeah, I have the Nets locking down the seventh seed in the East to face the Boston Celtics in a rematch of last season’s First Round series between the two teams, and I have the Clippers overtaking the Timberwolves as the West’s seventh seed to face the Grizzlies in the First Round for the third time in 11 seasons. Plus, given those two predictions, I have the Hawks traveling to Cleveland to take on the Cavaliers, and I have the Spurs traveling to Minneapolis to take on the Timberwolves.

Tune in on Thursday to both see how I did with my predictions for these four Play-In games and my predictions of which two teams will earn the right(s) to face the Miami Heat and Phoenix Suns in the First Round, respectively.