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Everything You Need To Know For The Final Round Of The Play In Tournament

The first round of the Play In tournament could not have gone better. Sure the quality of basketball was sometimes often times pretty gross, but who cares. All I ask from these games is to be entertained, and it's hard to argue that the league didn't go 4 for 4 in entertaining games. They all delivered. I also think we all agree the odds aren't great for any of these teams to win the title or even make a deep playoff run, but I say stop obsessing over RINGZZZZZ culture and just enjoy some fun basketball while we have it.

Which brings us to Round 2. The reward for whoever comes out of these games tonight is a healthy and rested Nikola Jokic and a rested and healthy Giannis. I'm not sure if you've heard, but those are 2 of the 3 guys in the Top 3 for MVP and their teams are pretty good. Some say that this Play In round is all just delaying an inevitable sweep once the real dance starts, but let's not worry about that. Instead, just pray we get two more entertaining games on the eve of the real NBA Playoffs. 

Let's break it down.

Chicago Bulls vs Miami Heat

Head to head: Bulls won 3-0

If you told someone last year that these two teams would be playing for their Play In lives, I'm sure each fanbase would be very mean to you on the internet. The Heat were the 1 seed, the Bulls spent time atop the conference before injuries fucked them and they were still able to stay in the top 6.

So how did we get two playoff teams from 2021-22 in a do or die game where the loser heads to the Lottery? Remember, if the Bulls pick falls outside the top 4, it goes to the Magic (thanks Vucevic!). It's pretty simple, both teams had rather underachieving seasons. All season we waited for each team to sort of wake up and get back to what we had just watched the year before, and that never really happened.

Heading into tonight, I'm not sure the vibes around each team could be more different. The Heat look like a cooked product, where now the talk isn't so much about what they can do in the playoffs, but how they are already looking to bring in another star. Shocking, I know. We never hear the Heat are in on a star player, so this is a refreshing change.

Pat Riley has no shame, I'll give him that.

The Bulls, on the other hand, their vibe could not be more different. As I talked about yesterday, since the ASB the Bulls have been one of the best teams in the NBA. That's not hyperbole either. The Bulls own the 3rd most wins, 1st ranked defense, the 3rd best net rating, and the 15th best offense. In terms of talent, these rosters aren't all that close. The Heat live off of this idea of what they "could be" as opposed to what they are, and the Bulls have actual high end talent.

In the first games taught us anything, it's that the Heat do not have a large margin for error. So much is made about their shooting woes, but the defense has flat out stunk for months. Since the ASB, this is the 22nd ranked defense. The Hawks, yes the Hawks, got whatever they wanted with relative ease. The size of the Heat was the biggest issue, and I see no reason why the Bulls won't be able to take advantage of that just like the Hawks did. 

We know that the Heat do not have quality wing/perimeter defenders outside of Butler. Well guess who the best players are on the Bulls? Two elite wings. Who on the Heat is going to prevent DeRozan from getting to his spots? Let's say that's Butler, OK. Who is stopping Zach LaVine? A guy who just did this?

In terms of the bigs, how confident are you as a Heat fan that Bam actually shows up? The way he disappears in these big games is so bizarre. It's almost like everyone forgets he exists offensively, and then once he does get the ball he refuses to be aggressive. This isn't exactly new, but it is surprising that we're still seeing it. 

If the Heat allow a CHI team that ranked 28th in OREB% to feast on the boards like what happened in their first game, they deserve to have their season ended.

Defensively, I imagine we'll see a similar approach to what they did with the Hawks in the second half. The Bulls can't really shoot, they're league average from deep and barely take any (30th). They want to get into the midrange/paint, so I'm expecting to see a bunch of that MIA zone. Since they have pretty shitty individual defenders and are going up against elite isolation scorers, the best way to deal with that in theory is to go zone. 

On the other end, life is going to be much harder for Kyle Lowry. They needed 33 from him just to stay close against the Hawks, but this is not Trae Young. Pat Bev and Alex Caruso are MUCH better defensively, so that's a bit of an issue. When it comes to Butler, Patrick Williams is a legit on ball defender who has great size and length. As long as he doesn't bite on Jimmy's pump fakes, that should be a tough matchup as well. If you go position by position, I'm not sure there are too many advantages for MIA, which is why them being -5.5 favorites is a bit of a surprise. 

That doesn't mean they have no shot though. Jimmy can go nuts, Strus and Herro can get hot, Bam can actually try, all that is possible. The problem is they're going to have to be close to perfect. While we don't know what version of the Bulls we're going to get, if it's the one we just saw then they should advance. They have more offensive versatility, a better defense, and more top end talent. I think it's fair to say it'd be a choke if they didn't get it done.

Oklahoma City Thunder vs Minnesota Timberwolves

Head to head: Wolves won 3-1

Much like the game in the East, the vibes are pretty similar between these two teams. In one corner you have the Thunder, where the vibes could not be better. Not only have they been playing with house money, but they actually look awesome! At some point people will start giving them their proper respect and won't be surprised that they are winning these type of games, and at 12-9 over the last month, the Thunder are actually playing pretty damn well.

In the other corner, you have the Wolves, who look like they may be ready for Cancun. We'll see if they end up having Gobert for tonight but what this game does is provides us a good contrast in style.

The Thunder play small and fast. They do not have a center. But what they do have is a bunch of guys who play hard as shit, a head coach that looks like he knows what he's doing, and a star in SGA who can take over a game by himself. While they may not be tall, they are long as shit along the perimeter and have the type of ball pressure from guys like Lu Dort that can make life hell for an opposing #1 option. I imagine he'll get the Anthony Edwards assignment, which should be awesome to watch. Edwards trying to rebound from his brutal showing against the Lakers, Lu Dort coming off the best game of his career against the Pelicans, that matchup should be fun.

The Wolves mortgaged their entire future so that they could play big. If there is one matchup where they should be able to take advantage of that, it's this game. If you can't dominate with your size at home, in a game like this, then why not just blow the whole plan up? This is a game that KAT should dominate offensively considering all the Thunder can do is throw 6'9 guys at him. Will he actually be aggressive or will he settle for jumpers/get stupid fouls? 

Given that SGA doesn't really shoot 3PA, you have to limit what he does in the paint/at the rim, which is where Gobert comes in. The potential issue there is if Gobert is in drop, good luck. SGA will feast. The same is true for Josh Giddey (although he's been getting better from deep). Just look at how they did all their damage against the Pelicans

In theory, things should be tougher for them going up against the MIN frontline compared to NO, and if it's not then that's a gigantic issue moving forward for the Wolves to figure out.

It's also pretty important that Anthony Edwards snaps out of whatever that was against the Lakers. Maybe it was an injury, who knows. The point is, he can't no show two games in a row. He's too important and too good a player to have that happen back to back games with his season on the line. Personally, I don't think he will which is why I'm excited for this game. I can get behind a Edwards vs SGA battle and you should too.

It felt like Ant settled way too much for his jumper against the Lakers, so tonight he needs to change his approach and feast at the rim. It's not like there's an Anthony Davis on the other end waiting for him. He should be able to dominate this game, and in the 4 games during the year averaged 21/8/5 on 47/34% splits. If he does that, it should be enough.

The thing you have to remember with the Thunder is they are not going to shoot themselves in the foot. This is a team that ranked 5th in TOs at just 13.0 a night, compared to a Wolves team that LOVES shooting themselves in the foot. They ranked 27th in the NBA in TOs, and that's a problem because guess who thrives off TOs?

The Thunder.

They finished 2nd in the NBA in points off TOs (20.6) while also being 2nd in the NBA in limiting opponents points off TOs (14.8). So, even if the Wolves learn they have that size advantage, if they don't take care of the basketball it may not even matter. You'll remember, they had 24 TOs against the Lakers that turned into 30 points, and the Lakers were 29th in the NBA in points off TOs. if the Wolves do that against a team that actually thrives off those mistakes, this could be a blowout before we know it.

Personally, I would like to see the Thunder and Bulls advance because I think that would be the more entertaining first round matchup. The Wolves and Heat are ready to start their vacations, so I say go ahead and try again next year. At the very least, here's to hoping we have 2 more entertaining games to wrap up what has been a great Play In tournament.