The NBA Play-In Tournament is finally here. For the Eastern Conference, the 8th Seed, Atlanta Hawks (41-41, 17-24 Away) will face the 7th Seed Miami Heat (44-38, 27-14 Home). The two teams will play tonight at 7:30 PM EDT at the Kaseya Center, located in Miami, Florida. If you’re looking to watch this game, the matchup will air on TNT.
For the Western Conference, the 8th Seed Minnesota Timberwolves (42-40, 20-21 Away) will face the 7th seed Los Angeles Lakers (43-39, 23-18 Home). These two teams will play tonight at 10:00 PM EDT at Crypto.com Area, located in Los Angeles, California. In addition, the matchup will air on TNT. If you are looking for the best betting odds for the NBA Championship, here is information to know:
NBA Championship Odds:
Atlanta Hawks: +35000
Miami Heat: +25000
Minnesota Timberwolves: +30000
Los Angeles Lakers: +1800
Play-In Tournament Odds:
Hawks vs. Heat
Spread: Heat -5, Hawks +5
Timberwolves vs. Lakers
Spread: Lakers -8.5, Timberwolves +8.5
The Atlanta Hawks have 1 NBA Championship in 49 total appearances and won their only championship in 1958. The Hawks lost to the Miami Heat in last year’s First Round, and they are looking for revenge. Atlanta ranks 3rd in Points Per Game (118.4), 18th in Assists Per Game (25), 10th in Rebounds per Game (44.4), 22nd in Three-Point Shooting Percentage, and 26th in Opponent Points Per Game (118.1). After a 7-3 start to the Season, Atlanta was 17-20 by New Years Day. By the time February came along, the Hawks fired Head Coach Nate McMillan, who took them to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2021.
In late February, former Head Coach of the Utah Jazz, Quin Snyder, signed a 5-year deal to become the next Head Coach of the Atlanta Hawks. Since Snyder’s debut against the Washington Wizard, the Hawks finished 10-11, and lost their last two games of the regular season. Although Atlanta lost to the Heat last season, the addition of guard Dejounte Murray should take some pressure of All-Star Guard, Trae Young. Although the Atlanta Hawks have two extremely talented guards, this team has been mediocre all season.
The Atlanta Hawks are a high scoring team, and they rank 3rd in the league in points per game. They are a very efficient team at the line, ranking 3rd in the league in Free-Throw Percentage (81.8), and 9th in Field Goal Percentage (48.1). The Hawks also rank 1st in the league in Field Goals Made (44.6).
It’s important to note Trae Young ranks 10th in the League in Points-Per Game with 26.2. In addition, Young is averaging over 10 Assists per game, which is 2nd in the league and a career high. Although Trae struggled shooting percentage wise, he is more efficient from the field and three-point range on the road. Guard Dejounte Murray was acquired to help Guard Trae Young in the backcourt. He’s averaged 20.5 Points-Per-Game, 6.1 Assists, 5.3 Rebounds, and is shooting 46.4 percent from the field. Like Trae Young, Murray shoots better from the three-point on the road (36.2 percent).
The Atlanta Hawks can score, and sometimes numbers can be deceiving. Although Atlanta ranks 9th in Field Goal Percentage, they rank 21st in Three-Point Shooting (35.2). Given the league caters to the three-point shot, this is a huge disadvantage for this team. Furthermore, Trae Young is shooting 33.5 percent beyond the arc this season, compared to 38.2 percent last year. Apart from that, they are not a team that frequently gets to the free-throw line.
It’s no secret the Atlanta Hawks also have depth issues. If the Hawks want some decent three-point shooting, they will have to rely on guard Bogdan Bogdanovic, who is shooting 40 percent beyond the arc. One of the Hawks’ biggest weaknesses is their lack of defense. Ironically, this is a top scoring team that ranks 26th in Opponents points per game (118.1). Even Worse, they allow opponents to shoot 35.6 percent from the three-point line. Although Young has been the star of this team, Atlanta is open to a trade. According to CBS Sports, “Hawks front office has ‘green light’ to consider moving All-Start guard (Trae Young).”
•Trae Young is averaging 19.8 points and 9.8 assists against the Miami Heat this season. He’s been ice cold from the three-point, shooting 20 percent and 35.6 from the field against Miami.
•Dejounte Murray averages 18.5 points per game and 5 assists per game against the Heat. Much like Young, the Heat held Murray to 29.6 Three-point shooting, and 43.9 percent from the field.
•Center Clint Capela is averaging 13.3 Points and 9.7 Rebounds against the Heat this year.
The Miami Heat have total of 3 NBA Trophies in 24 appearances. Although the Heat finished as the #1 Seed in the East last season, they lost to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals. Although Miami is 1st in the Southeast Division, they’ve regressed. They finished 44-38 and sit in the Play-In Tournament. Stat- wise, the Heat rank last in the league in Points Per Game (109.5), 25th in Assists Per Game (23.8), 26th in Rebounds Per Game (40.6), and 26th in Three Point Percentage (34.8).
Although Miami struggles in most of those categories, they are 2nd in the league in Opponent Points-Per Game (109.8), and Opponent Field Goal Attempts (83.2). The Heat started their season 12-15 and won 4 out of their 5 last regular season games. Although Miami has not performed to their expectations, Head Coach Erik Spoelstra has experience in the postseason, and Jimmy Butler (Playoff Jimmy) is known for his tough playoff performances. Given Kyle Lowry has been out, can Miami advance far given they do not have a true playmaker?
The Heat are one of the best defensive teams in the league. They do not allow many points per game, and they rank 3rd in the league in Field Goal Attempts (21.1). They also rank 8th in Steals Per-Game (7.0). In addition, they rank 6th in the league in Opponent Rebounds Per Game (41.8), and 2nd in the league in opponent field goal attempts (83.2). Regarding Rebounds, Miami ranks 1st in the league in Opponent Offensive Rebounds Per Game (8.9). Although they do not get to the free-throw line much, they make their shots when it matters. Miami is 2nd in the league in Free-Throw percentage (83.1). In addition, Miami handles the ball well, and does not commit as high of turnovers compared to the rest of the NBA.
Although Miami is a very good defensive team, they allow opponents to shoot 36.7 percent from the Three-Point, and 48.2 percent from the Field. They do not get to the free-throw line frequently and rank dead last in the league in points scored. In addition, the Heat do not shoot the ball well beyond the arc (34.4) and rank towards the bottom in Assists. Although Miami has stars in Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler, they lack a true point guard and playmaker. Tyler Herro is perfect as a 2 guard, and Gabe Vincent has been starting in place of Veteran Point guard Kyle Lowry.
•The Miami Heat won the regular season series 3-1 against the Atlanta Hawks.
•Jimmy Butler is averaging 25 points and 6.3 assists against the Hawks this season. He shot 100 percent from the Three-Point, and 63.2 percent from the Field in those games.
•Bam Adebayo averages 24.5 Points Per Game, 1.8 Steals, and 9.5 Rebounds against Atlanta. He’s also shooting 92.3 percent from the Free-Throw line.
•Guard Tyler Herro struggled in his 4 games against Atlanta. He’s averaging 14.8 points per game, 5.5 assists, and shooting 21 percent from the Three.
The Minnesota Timberwolves have a total of 11 playoff appearances and never won an NBA Championship. Furthermore, Minnesota lost to the #2 Seed Memphis Grizzlies in the NBA First Round last season. The Timberwolves rank 13th in Points Per Game (115.8), 8th in Assists Per Game (26.2), 23rd in Rebounds Per Game (44.4), 13th in Three-Point Shooting Percentage, and 18th in Opponent Points Per Game (115.8). The Wolves made some moves, acquiring Center Rudy Gobert in exchange for Malik Beasley, Patrick Beverly, Leandro Bolmaro, Walker Kessler, Jarred Vanderbilt, 2023 first-round pick, 2025 first-round pick, 2026 pick swap, 2027 first-round pick, and a 2029 first-round pick. You could make the argument Minnesota gave up too many assets for Gobert.
Minnesota hovered around the .500 mark all season. The Timberwolves shipped off D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley, and Jarred Vanderbilt to the Lakers in a three-way trade with the Utah Jazz. Minnesota received Veteran Point Guard Mike Conley, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, 2024 2nd-round pick swap, 2025 2nd-round pick, and a 2026 2nd round pick. Minnesota has a record of 29-23 against teams in the Western Conference and will be without Rudy Gobert. Also, Karl-Anthony Towns is on the injury report. In addition, the Timberwolves will be without forward Jaden McDaniels.
The Timberwolves are a middle-of the road team in many statistical categories. Although they hovered around the .500 mark, Minnesota finished the season 7-3 in their last 10 games. In those 10 games, they averaged 117 points per game, over 7 steals, nearly 44 rebounds, and 29 assists. The Wolves rank 4th in Blocks per game, however, with Gobert and Towns possibly out, this will affect the team. Anthony Edwards, Kyle Anderson, and Mike Conley will have to pick up the slack for this team, who does not have many strengths right now. If the Wolves lineup were healthy, there would be plenty of depth, especially at the Center position.
Minnesota is a depleted team after a disastrous last game of the Season. Rudy Gobert was sent home from the team, after throwing punches at teammate Kyle Anderson. In addition, Jaden McDaniels will be out for the rest of the season after punching a wall, resulting in a broken hand. Both McDaniels and Gobert are defensive players, and without them, this team could struggle. Even with two big men, the Wolves rank 23rd in the league in Rebounds (41.9), and their point differential is 0.0. Even worse, Minnesota ranks 24th in opponent three-point percentage (36.9), and this team turns the ball over many times (14.9).
•The Minnesota Timberwolves won the regular season series 2-1 against the Los Angeles Lakers.
•Rudy Gobert is averaging 19.3 Points and 15.3 Rebounds against the Lakers this season. With him at, the Wolves will be at a defensive disadvantage.
•Anthony Edwards averages 19.7 Points Per Game, 2 Steals, and is shooting 43.5 percent from the Three-Point against the Lakers.
•Veteran Point Guard Mike Conley is averaging 17 Points Per Game and 8 Assists against LA this season. In addition, Conley is shooting 44.8 percent from the Three-Point in his last 10 games, and 48 percent from the Field.
Los Angeles Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers have 17 NBA Championships and 63 NBA Playoff Appearances. The Lakers are three years removed from an NBA Championship and missed the 2021-2022 playoffs entirely. It’s Darvin Ham’s first season, in which the Lakers did not get off to a great start. Los Angeles started the season 2-9 and lost 5 in a row in the month of November. The Lakers rank 6th in Points Per Game (117.2), 15th in Assists (25.3), 6th in Rebounds (45.7), 25th in Three-Point Shooting Percentage, and 20th in Opponent Points Per Game (116.6).
In desperation, the Lakers traded for D’Angelo Russell, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Malik Beasley. Although stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis endured injuries, Los Angeles finished 8-2 in their last 10 games. Over their last 10 games, this Lakers team is gelling nicely, shooting nearly 50 percent from the field. If Anthony Davis, LeBron James, and D’Angelo Russell suit up and are healthy, this team could make a serious run if they win tonight. Although they sit in the Play-In Tournament, this Lakers team is 18-9 since the NBA Trade Deadline.
The Lakers have a great amount of depth, particularly at the forward position. The addition of Rui Hachimura and Jarred Vanderbilt gives Anthony Davis and LeBron James a great amount of support. Rui Hachimura’s playing good basketball as of late, and Vanderbilt is a guy who is a defensive player the Lakers needed. If Russell suits up, he has Dennis Schroder and Austin Reaves. As far as their shooting guards go, Malik Beasley is a nice 2 guard, in addition to Lonnie Walker IV, who’s proven he can put up stats in certain situations.
If the Lakers cannot make their three-point shots, they will get to the line. They currently rank 1st in the league in Free-Throw Attempts and are top 6th in Rebounding (45.7). In particular, the Lakers are 2nd in the league in Defensive Rebounds per game (35.7). LA is in the top 10 in field goal percentage, especially if Davis and LeBron are both in the Lineup. Also, it’s important to note, although the Lakers are not the best team on the defensive end, they are very good against opponent perimeter three-pointers (34.4 percent).
The Lakers have been hit with injuries all season, particularly to LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and D’Angelo Russell. One of their biggest weaknesses is the ability to shoot the three-ball, where they rank 25th at 34.6 percent. Although the Lakers get to the free-throw line quite frequently, they rank towards the bottom in field goal percentage (77.5). In addition, LA ranks 20th in opponents points per game (116.6) and does not force many turnovers (12.1).
•LeBron James averages 23 points, 8.5 Rebounds, and 5.5 Assists against Minnesota this season. The Wolves held LeBron to 22 percent three-point and 39.5 percent field goal shooting.
•Anthony Davis averages 38 points per game, 2 blocks, 1 steal, and 11 Rebounds per game against the Wolves. In addition, Davis shot 56 percent from the field during those 2 games.
•Guard Malik Beasley is averaging 14.4 Points and is shooting 38 percent from the three against Minnesota this year.
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Sara Jane is a full-time content creator, focusing on both college basketball, the NBA, NFL, and Writer of Ballislife.com. Don’t forget to follow her on Twitter: @GGirlSports