It’s a big weekend in the NBA as Friday features the final games of the Play-In tournament, as the playoffs begin on Saturday. Some big names will also be returning to action for their teams’ first-round matchups. Here’s a look at the games, as well as some news highlights from around the league.
Final Play-In Tournament Matchups Tonight
The Cleveland Cavaliers will host the Atlanta Hawks in a battle for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Hawks made it to the conference finals last season, and on Wednesday, they blew out the Charlotte Hornets 132-103 on the strength of Trae Young’s 24 points.
The Cavs will need to slow him down by making him work more on defense in tonight’s matchup against Darius Garland, who scored 34 against the Nets’ Kyrie Irving on Tuesday.
Atlanta will put up more big numbers and get the victory on the road tonight.
Clips Have a Shot
The Clippers host the Pelicans on Friday night for a chance to travel to Phoenix, where the winner will face the best team in the NBA in the Western Conference playoffs. It looked like the Clippers would clinch a playoff berth on Tuesday but blew a huge lead in the fourth quarter and lost a close game to Minnesota.
The Pelicans beat the Spurs on Wednesday night 113-103, with CJ McCollum scoring 27 first-half points leading New Orleans to victory. LA is 10-1 in the last 11 games against opponents with records under .500, winning by an average of 13 points.
The Clippers will get the win at home and move on to face the Suns in the first round.
Curry to Make Return Against Nuggets
Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry played in his first scrimmage yesterday after missing the last 12 games with an injured left foot. Coach Steve Kerr has said he is optimistic he’ll play in game one of their first-round playoff matchup against the Denver Nuggets. The team will see how he looks in practice on Friday before deciding how much he will play in game one.
The Warriors were 6-6 in the last twelve games without Curry but won five straight to end the regular season. However, they will need his production against the Nuggets as they still need to figure out how to limit the play of Nikola Jokic. The All-Star center averaged a triple-double against the Warriors this season with 30 points, 14.6 rebounds, and ten assists. Game one of the series will be on Saturday.
Simmons To Make Nets Debut vs. Celtics
Brooklyn Nets PG Ben Simmons will reportedly make his debut with the team during the first-round playoff series against the Boston Celtics. He could be in action as early as game four but has yet to participate in 5-on-5 drills in practice. However, that will likely change by the end of this week.
Since coming over from the Philadelphia 76ers in a blockbuster trade, he’s been dealing with an injury to his back. He has recently increased his rehab workload to strengthen his back and legs before returning to action. Simmons demanded a trade after the Sixers lost to Atlanta in the playoffs last season.
He was scrutinized for his poor play in the series and has constantly taken criticism from the fans and media due to his lack of a consistent outside shot. However, the Nets are hoping he can help in the quest for their first-ever NBA Championship.