2024 NBA play-in tournament: What I'm watching, TV schedule, predictions

Adam Silver’s vision of the NBA is unfolding – a league where more and more teams have the ability to compete for a championship.

“You can never predict what’s going to happen with the competition, but what we set out to do, both with our collective bargaining system and frankly our revenue sharing system, was to give all 30 teams an opportunity to compete, and if well managed, to have an ability to make a profit, as well,” the commissioner said after last week’s owners meetings.

There hasn’t been a repeat champion since Golden State in 2017 and 2018, and starting with the 2019 NBA Finals, five different teams have won a title, and eight different teams have reached the Finals.

Mid- and small-market teams Oklahoma City, Denver and Minnesota finished 1-2-3 in the Western Conference, separated by a game. Fourth through 10th place in the West were separated by five games, including two games between fourth and seventh place.

Boston ran away with the Eastern Conference, but after that, second through eighth places were not decided until the final day of the season.

Anthony Davis, left, and forward LeBron James make the Los Angeles Lakers a threat in the NBA play-in tournament.
Anthony Davis, left, and forward LeBron James make the Los Angeles Lakers a threat in the NBA play-in tournament.

And the play-in game tournament has produced success stories – with Miami going from play-in game to NBA Finals and the Los Angeles Lakers going from play-in game to the Western Conference finals last season.

It’s a deep and competitive NBA.

Here’s what I’m watching in the play-in game tournament followed by play-in game predictions:

Philadelphia 76ers

Before Joel Embiid’s injury, the 76ers were in the mix for the No. 2 or No. 3 seed. They fell in the standings without him. However, they won eighth consecutive games to finish the season, Embiid is back in the lineup and the Sixers are a dangerous team with the 2022-23 MVP, All-Star Tyrese Maxey, Tobias Harris, Buddy Hield and coach Nick Nurse, who led Toronto to the title in 2019.

If the Sixers emerge from the play-in game tournament, they won’t be an easy out. And with the seventh seed, that’s not the kind of matchup the second-seeded New York Knicks want in the first round. That’s not easing into the playoffs as the heavy favorite.

A seventh seed with Embiid and that roster is not a traditional 7 seed.

Los Angeles Lakers

LeBron James doesn’t care where he is in the playoffs or if his team has home-court advantage. He just wants to make the playoffs – and from there, he’s confident his team can win games.

The Lakers finished 12 games above .500 and just four games behind the fourth-place Los Angeles Clippers. Any team with James and Anthony Davis presents problems for an opponent.

The Lakers have lost eight consecutive games to Denver since last season.

Star power featured in play-in tournament

These players are or were All-Star and/or All-NBA selections:

James, Davis, Golden State’s Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green; New Orleans’ Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram; Sacramento’s De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis; Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey’; Miami’s Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo; Chicago’s DeMar DeRozan; and Atlanta’s Trae Young.

Three of the coaches in the play-in tournament have led teams to NBA titles: Nurse, Miami’s Erik Spoelstra and Golden State’s Steve Kerr. Sacramento’s Mike Brown and Los Angeles Lakers’ Darvin Ham were assistants on titles teams, and Chicago’s Billy Donovan won back-to-back NCAA men’s basketball championships at Florida.

Play-in game tournament schedule, TV, predictions:


No. 8 Lakers 110, No. 7 Pelicans 106

Los Angeles secures the No. 7 seed against No. 2 Denver in a West first-round series.

No. 9 Kings 118, No. 10 Warriors 94

Sacramento will play New Orleans on Friday with the winner earning the No. 8 seed in the West.


No. 7 Philadelphia 105, No. 8 Miami 104

The 76ers are the No. 7 seed and will face No. 2 New York in an East first-round series.

No. 9 Chicago 131, No. 10 Atlanta 116

Chicago will play Miami on Friday with the winner earning the No. 8 seed in the East.


Miami vs. Chicago, ESPN, 7 p.m. ET (winner is the No. 8 seed against No. 1 Boston in an East first-round series)

Prediction: Heat

Sacramento Kings at New Orleans Pelicans, TNT, 9:30 p.m. ET (winner is the No. 8 seed against No. 1 Oklahoma City in a West first-round series)

Prediction: Pelicans

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NBA play-in tournament: Predictions, schedule, how to watch