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Inside the NBA's new play-in game playoff format; Warriors-Lakers lead Thursday's slate

·3 min read
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The NBA has toyed with a play-in game ideas for years.

When Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James said the person who created the play-in game should be fired, Evan Wasch’s phone began lighting up with calls and texts.

Wasch is the NBA’s executive vice president of basketball strategy and analytics. He recently told Yahoo! Sports’ Chris Haynes that he is not the play-in game inventor. It is an idea that predates his time at the NBA, and several people contributed to the idea.

He is more like the curator of the play-in format, and despite James’ wishes, Wasch – or anyone else – won’t be fired. At least not for the play-in game idea.

Indeed, the league’s competition committee has discussed changes to its postseason format for years. One idea was seventh place vs. 10th place and eighth place vs. ninth place in each conference with the winners taking the Nos. 7 and 8 seeds. Or just eighth place vs. ninth place with the winner getting the No. 7 seed.

They also discussed thresholds such as should a team need to be within a certain number of games back to qualify for any kind of play-in scenario. Example: if a team were 10 games behind the eighth seed and in 10th place, should that team be included or excluded?

The league settled on the current format. And the Lakers are indeed in the play-in game format.

Here’s a look at how the play-in game works and Wednesday schedule, including TV info and odds:

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.

Wednesday’s schedule with times, TV info, odds

Tenth-place San Antonio (+4) at ninth-place Memphis, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

The skinny: The Grizzlies won the season series 2-1, taking two wins at San Antonio on Jan. 30 and Feb. 1. Memphis guard Ja Morant leads a deep team. The Spurs are trying get back into the playoffs after their streak of 22 consecutive appearances ended last season.

Eighth-place Golden State (+5½) at seventh-place Los Angeles Lakers, 10 p.m. ET, ESPN

The skinny: What a delicious matchup – Steph Curry and the Warriors against LeBron James and the Lakers for the No. 7 seed in the West. Curry is an MVP candidate and can lead a team to victory with his scoring. But will James and Anthony Davis be too much for the Warriors? The Lakers won the season series 2-1 – a 117-91 victory on Feb. 28 and a 128-97 victory on March 15. The Warriors took the Jan. 18 matchup 115-113.

Gannett may earn revenue from audience referrals to betting services. Newsrooms are independent of this relationship and there is no influence on news coverage.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: How were NBA play-in games created? Schedule, TV, odds for Thursday