Pacers meet Wizards in NBA playoffs play-in game: What to know

The Los Angeles Lakers avoided a do-or-die playoff situation with LeBron James’ dramatic 3-pointer giving the Lakers 103-100 victory over the Golden State Warriors and the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference.

Now, it’s Memphis at Golden State for the eighth seed on Friday.

Yes, that Lakers-Warriors play-in game provided a fantastic two-plus hours of high-level hoops, and the Grizzlies’ win over the San Antonio Spurs wasn’t decided until the final minute.

That doesn’t mean the play-in game has been well received throughout NBA team front offices. The play-in game probably isn’t going away, but the competition committee and league owners may explore tweaks to the format – such as setting a threshold to qualify. Maybe if a team is a certain number games behind the seventh seed after the regular season, it doesn’t qualify for the play-in game.

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San Antonio, at nine games behind the Lakers, getting a chance to make the playoffs with two good games minimizes the results of the 72-game season. At least that’s how some execs view it. In a revised format, maybe the 10th place team would need to be within five games to qualify for the play-in game.

Maybe there won’t be changes, but the competition committee and the league office will discuss potential tweaks.

The Indiana Pacers face off against the Washington Wizards in a win-or-go-home game Thursday night. (Photo: Geoff Burke, USA TODAY Sports)

Thursday’s game with time, TV info, odds

Indiana Pacers at Washington Wizards, 8 p.m. ET, TNT

Line: Pacers +3½

The skinny: The Pacers are here because they beat the Charlotte Hornets, and the Wizards are because they lost to the Boston Celtics in play-in games. The winner gets the No. 8 seed, the loser is eliminated. It’s been an uneven year for both teams – Pacers coach Nate Bjorkgren sometimes struggling to adapt as a head coach and the Wizards hampered by COVID-19 health and safety protocols. Both teams have dealt with injuries/illnesses, and Wizards star guard Bradley Beal isn’t 100% with a strained left hamstring. Indiana's Caris LeVert is out due to COVID protocols. The Wizards won the season series 3-0 – all of them high-scoring affairs: 132-124 on March 29, 154-141 on May 3 (no overtime in that one) and 133-132 in overtime on May 8.

How the play-in game format works

The seventh-and eighth-place teams play each other and the winner earns the No. 7 seed. The loser of that game plays the winner of the 9-10 game. The winner of that game becomes the No. 8 seed. To give the teams that had a better record during the regular season an advantage, teams 7-8 need to win just one play-in game to advance and teams 9-10 need to win two games.

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