Henderson, Ky. (WEHT)- The NBA postseason continues Tuesday night with day 2 of the Play-In Tournament.
Last night, the 7 seeds were determined, though no teams have gone home yet. Tonight, the 9 and 10 seeds play each other, with the losing teams going home.
The Eastern Conference match-up has the 9-seed Toronto Raptors facing off against the 10-seed Chicago Bulls.
The Raptors had an up-and-down season overall, finishing with a 41-41 record. They are still led by championship winning coach Nick Nurse and have players on their roster who won the championship in 2019. The Raptors team flows around Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, Scottie Barnes, and former Indiana Hoosier OG Anunoby.
The Raptors ironically lead the league in both steals and turnovers. The latter of which might explain some of their struggles this season. The Raptors have players from seven different countries. The United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Cameroon, Saint Lucia, Austria, and Nigeria are all represented on the Raptors roster. Both Siakam and rookie center Christian Koloko are from the African nation of Cameroon.
The Chicago Bulls also had major issues with consistency this year, finishing with a 40-42 record. Former National Championship winning head coach Bill Donovan runs a squad that struggled greatly throughout the year but rallied just enough to sneak into the play-in tournament.
The Bulls have star power and name recognition with players such as DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine, Nikola Vučević, Alex Caruso, and Andre Drummond, all of whom have gained notoriety. The Bulls have been hurt the most by point guard Lonzo Ball’s ongoing injury issues, which have caused the team to have both a poor defense and a stagnant offense for most of the year. Patrick Beverley, Coby White, and former University of Illinois alum Ayo Dosunmu all attempted to pick up the slack left by Ball’s absence.
Former University of Louisville alum Carlik Jones is also on the Bulls roster. The winner of this game will face the Miami Heat for the Eastern Conference 8th seed.
The Western Conference’s 9-10 matchup is the New Orleans Pelicans vs. Oklahoma City Thunder.
The New Orleans Pelicans started last year 0-14 and made the playoffs. This year was the opposite; they looked like one of the best teams in the league out of the gate, but due to injuries, they limped into the Play-In.
The Pelicans are coached by former NBA player Willie Green, who led them to a 42-40 record this year. New Orleans has been devastated by injuries again this year. Both their All-Stars, Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram, missed a chunk of time. Zion has been ruled out for the playoffs, and his future is looking uncertain.
C.J. McCollum, Jonas Valančiūnas, and Ingram will take the brunt of the offensive load, but they will need some of the other guys on the team to show up and play big minutes. Some candidates to do that are Herb Jones, Josh Richardson, and Trey Murphy.
The Pels are incredibly accurate from three and are very aggressive on the boards. The Pels are also second in the league in steals.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are the most shocking team in the entire field. With a young team that has a lot of players who were deemed barely NBA worthy, no one thought they could outperform their regional rival Dallas Mavericks, who have both Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irving on their roster. The Thunder not only outperformed them, but they did it without last year’s No. 2 pick, Chet Holmgren, playing a single minute.
Mark Daigneault is one of the youngest head coaches in the league, and he controls one of the youngest teams in the league.
Former Kentucky Wildcat Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is the engine which everything runs through. Gilgeous-Alexander, whose brother plays Thomasi played basketball at the University of Evansville.
The Thunder do have a shockingly good supporting cast for a team so young and inexperienced. Players such as Jalen Williams, Josh Giddey, Luguentz Dort, and Kenrich Williams have all stepped up and played good basketball for the team. The Thunder are around the league average in all categories, but they like to play fast, taking advantage of their youth.
The Thunder have players from six different nations. The United States, Canada, Australia, France, Croatia, and Serbia all show up on the Thunder’s roster. They also have a Jalen Williams and a Jaylin Williams, so that’s impressive.
They ended the year with a 40-42 record, and they could cause trouble for teams in the playoffs if they don’t take them seriously.
The winner of this game will face the Minnesota Timberwolves for the 8th seed in the Western Conference.
The games start tonight at 6:00.