Henderson, Ky. (WEHT)- The NBA Playoffs get started early on Monday with the start of the NBA Play-In Tournament.  The NBA Play-In Tournament is a series of games to decide the 7 and 8 seeds in both the Eastern and Western conferences. 

The way the tournament is done is the 7 and the 8 seeds play for the 7 seeds. The loser of those games proceeds to play the winner of the 9 and 10 seed games for the 8 seeds.

Now that the format of the tournament has been clarified, we can get through the games and teams involved in this stage of the postseason.

The first game in the tournament is a 7-and-8 seed matchup between the Miami Heat and the Atlanta Hawks. The Heat went a respectful 44-38 on the season while having one of the priciest rosters in the league. The Heat are led by longtime head coach Erik Spoelstra. He leads a roster that depends on Jimmy Bulter, Tyler Herro, and University of Kentucky alum Bam Adebayo. Other notables on the Heat include former All-Stars Kyle Lowry, Victor Oladipo, and Kevin Love. Some local ties to the Heat are IU alum Cody Zeller and DePaul alum Max Strus.

This season will also be the last for 42-year-old Udonis Haslem, who has spent every single one of his 20 seasons with the Heat. The Heat play very slowly and play an aggressive style of defense.

Their opponent at this stage of the tournament is the Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks are led by coach Quinn Snyder, who took over from former Pacers coach Nate McMillan in February. The Hawks have an offense that is heavily reliant on their guards. Trae Young and Dejounte Murray take on the vast majority of the offensive load. Other rotation notables include Clint Capela, John Collins, Bogdan Bogdanović, and De’Andre Hunter. The closest thing to a local tie on the Hawks is former Lipscomb alum Garrison Matthews.

 The Hawks also roster the only player ever from Angola in Bruno Fernando. The Hawks players are faster than the Heat, leading the league in field goals this year. Their defense is much less impressive than the Heat’s. A lot of that is related to Trae Young being a poor defender because of his slight frame. This game will be interesting because of the contrasting styles between the two teams.

The Western Conference’s 7-8 matchup is between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Minnesota Timberwolves. 

The Lakers have a very top-heavy team led by first year head coach Darvin Ham. The Lakers offense is led by LeBron James and UK legend Anthony Davis. LeBron, of course, is coming off a season where he broke the NBA’s all-time scoring record, just adding to his list of accomplishments. The Lakers rotation is filled out by guys like Lonnie Walker, Rui Hachimura, Austin Dennis Schröder, and former All-Star D’Angelo Russell. The Lakers also just signed former Khloé Kardashian love interest Tristain Thompson and Mo Bamba, who had a song made about him that went platinum in 2018.

The Lakers can’t really shoot the three, but they get to the free throw line as well as anyone in the league, and they are really good at rebounding the basketball. The Lakers need some of their role players to step up in order to make a run in the playoffs. Guys like Jarred Vanderbilt, Austin Reaves, and Malik Beasley are a few guys that could fill that need.

The Minnesota Timberwolves are an interesting story this season. After trading for former Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert, the Timberwolves really never figured it out. However, they are still in the play-in with a chance to do something in the playoffs. The Glenn Taylor and Alex Rodriguez owned group has the talent to make some noise if the team clicks in the postseason.

The big issue for the Timberwolves is their sudden lack of availability. Backup center Naz Reid fractured his left wrist and will be out for pretty much the whole playoffs, starting small forward Jaden McDaniels suffered fractures in his right hand after punching a concrete wall last weekend, and starting center Rudy Gobert is suspended for the game against the Lakers. 

The Timberwolves still have a good familiarity with their coach, Chris Finch, and have some talent that could cause some issues for other teams. Former number one pick Anthony Edwards and former UK center Karl-Anthony Towns led the way for a team that, while not as scrappy as last year’s group, still has some fight in it.

Indianapolis native and Ohio State alum Mike Conley joins Austin Rivers, Kyle Anderson, and Taurean Prince as the guys who have to step up and pick up the slack that the others left.

We could give stats on the Timberwolves but with the number of players they are missing those stats could be considered misleading.

Those are the games tonight. There are two more tomorrow, which we will also cover. The games start tonight at 6:30.