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With the Raptors out of the running for the 2021 NBA championship, Toronto fans are shifting into spectator — and speculator — mode. Who do we think will make it out of the East and West? And before we even get to that: who will survive this year’s raucous play-in tournament? This week we got some answers. On Wednesday night the Western Conference play-in games were sorted out, with one team advancing to the NBA playoffs and one team given the boot.
Prior to Wednesday — according to the latest SB Nation Reacts survey — fans around the NBA thought the Golden State Warriors had the best chance of advancing beyond the play-in tournament, with 81 percent believing the team will win one of their games. They were followed by the Los Angeles Lakers, with 80 percent of fans believing they will win a game.
As it turns out, the real results were just about in that order — and just about that close. The Lakers squeaked by the Warriors in their first play-in experience, which vaunted them into the playoffs for sure. Meanwhile, the Warriors now have to turn their attention to the Memphis Grizzlies tonight at 9 pm to make sure the above graph comes true.
Fortunately for Golden State, despite not quite besting LeBron, most fans believe Steph Curry is the most dangerous player to have in an elimination game. In this, it’s hard to disagree — the two players are just about 1A and 1B in terms of absolute destructive ability, with only fellows like Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant also in the conversation.
Meanwhile in the East, the fans were right: the Washington Wizards blasted their way from the Conference’s semi-basement into the eighth seed — besting the Pacers on Thursday night by a wide margin to eliminate them from the post-season. While Boston did indeed beat Washington in their initial play-in game on Tuesday to take the seventh seed, it took a 50-point night from Jayson Tatum to do so. We’ll see where the momentum goes next.
On the losing side, the Hornets didn’t get a chance to build on their exciting season this time around, but still: they have LaMelo Ball. After a thrilling rookie campaign, 52 percent of NBA fans think Ball should win the Rookie of the Year award. Ball beat out Minnesota Timberwolves’ top pick Anthony Edwards 36 percent and Sacramento Kings rookie Tyrese Haliburton who earned 12 percent.
Speaking of awards, the winner of tonight’s Warriors-Grizzlies match-up will get into the 2021 NBA Playoffs and will get to play, ah yes, the league-leading Utah Jazz. How did that squad make it to the top? Rudy Gobert, of course! The Jazz star was the top pick among fans, with 49 percent of the vote, to win Defensive Player of the Year.
No matter who secures the 8th seed in the West, Utah and Gobert will be waiting.
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