Here comes the Play-In Tournament! Plus, Giannis Antetokounmpo injury news

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Here comes the Play-In Tournament! Plus, Giannis Antetokounmpo injury news

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Shoutout to Grady King, who I know will argue with me on a podcast someday. Please keep scrolling for maybe the best gif of the season.

Playoff Seeding Set

Knicks grab No. 2 seed, OKC takes No. 1

A crazy weekend of possibilities and alternate scenarios came and went as we said goodbye to the NBA’s 2023-24 regular season. The Knicks beat the Bulls in overtime to grab the No. 2 seed in the East (more on that later), the Thunder snagged the West’s top spot thanks to Victor Wembanyama beating the Nuggets on Friday, and the Wolves found their No. 3 seed fate against the sixth-seeded Suns. With seeding for the No. 1-6 spots in each conference set, let’s look ahead to next weekend.

Western Conference seeding

1. Oklahoma City Thunder (57-25): The 40-win team that missed the playoffs last year grabbed the No. 1 seed this season thanks to winning the season series over defending champion Denver. The average age of OKC’s 10 most-played players is 23.6 years old. 🤯

2. Denver Nuggets (57-25): The defending champs won’t make the West go through the Mile High City, but that may apply to the first two rounds. Nikola Jokić is the favorite to land his third regular-season MVP, and the Nuggets are healthy for their title defense.

3. Minnesota Timberwolves (56-26): The Wolves couldn’t quite keep pace, so they face the Suns in the first round. Anthony Edwards and Rudy Gobert lead the NBA’s best defense, but Phoenix was 3-0 against Minnesota this season with an average margin of victory of 15.6 points.

4. LA Clippers (51-31): Will the Clippers Clip? Their third first-round matchup against Dallas in five years could show us. LA won the first two series and rested its main guys down the stretch of this season. Can Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and James Harden lead a deep run?

5. Dallas Mavericks (50-32): The Mavericks might have been the best team in basketball over the final quarter of the season. Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irving have been great, and Dallas’ defense has been elite over the last 20 games. That said, the Mavs were 1-2 against LA this season.

6. Phoenix Suns (49-33): The Suns beat the Wolves yesterday to avoid the Play-In madness. Now, Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal find themselves in a favorable matchup against Minnesota. Do big threes still work?

Eastern Conference seeding

1. Boston Celtics (64-18): The Celtics haven’t really had much to worry about this season. They cruised into the No. 1 seed in the East and homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs. Boston has the best offense in NBA history and the league’s second-best defense this season. Their pathway to the Finals is set up.

2. New York Knicks (50-32): The Knicks continue to gut out wins and play big minutes, which earned them the No. 2 seed in the East. Jalen Brunson, whose 11 40-point games this season tied Patrick Ewing (1989-90) for the second-most in any Knicks season, has been about as good as it gets. New York will await the winner of the Sixers-Heat after going 3-1 against Philly and 2-1 against Miami this season.

3. Milwaukee Bucks (49-33): The Bucks will get the Pacers in the first round. It’s worth remembering Indiana has flustered them all season. We still don’t know the status of Giannis Antetokounmpo’s calf (Shams has more on that below), so hopefully the Bucks are healthy enough to avoid the repeating the embarrassment of last postseason.

4. Cleveland Cavaliers (48-34): The Cavs settled into the No. 4 seed to set up a first-round matchup with the youthful Orlando Magic. Cleveland needs its backcourt to be healthy to exorcise those demons of last year’s loss to New York.

5. Orlando Magic (47-35): Orlando’s incredible turnaround continued, as shown by this young team sporting one of the best defenses in the league. The Magic have a chance to show the Cavs hunting this matchup was a mistake. More on this below.

6. Indiana Pacers (47-35): Can Indiana remain the thorn in Milwaukee’s side? The Pacers went 4-1 against the Bucks this season but need Tyrese Haliburton at the top of his game to win this series.

The Latest From Shams

Giannis’ Game 1 status in the air

Due to a calf strain, Antetokounmpo, the Bucks’ star, is rehabbing daily, but league sources tell me there’s real doubt about his status to begin Milwaukee’s first-round series against Indiana on Sunday.

As Bucks fans know, Antetokounmpo has a rare ability to recover quickly from injury. But he’s had multiple past injuries, including Achilles tendinitis and a hamstring injury, on that left leg. After missing the final three games of the regular season, he’s very much up in the air for Game 1 against the sixth-seeded Pacers, who beat the Bucks four out of five times this season.

Antetokounmpo played in 73 games this season, 30.4 points, 11.5 rebounds and a career-high 6.5 assists per game.

Play-In Tourney Time

Lakers–Pelicans, Kings–Warriors set tone

Of course, we can’t get to next weekend’s playoffs without the Play-In Tournament happening first. This week, we’ll have games Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday to determine the No. 7 and No. 8 seeds in the East and West.

Just a reminder: the No. 7 and No. 8 teams in each conference play each other for the No. 7 seed. The 7-8 winner gets the No. 7 seed. Also, the No. 9 and No. 10 seeds play each other. That game’s loser starts its offseason as the winner goes to play the loser of the 7-8 matchup. The winner of that game gets the No. 8 seed. Here’s how the Play-In Tournament will be set up this week:

Play-In Tournament schedule (all times Eastern)



  • Heat at Sixers (7 p.m. ESPN): The Sixers were 1-1 at home against the Heat and 2-2 against them overall. They won Joel Embiid’s only appearance in the series. Does Miami still have that postseason culture/magic?
  • Hawks at Bulls (9:30 p.m. ESPN): The Play-In needed 10 teams, and these two helped accomplish that. Chicago was 2-1 against Atlanta this season.


  • Winner of Hawks-Bulls at loser of Sixers-Heat (TBD, ESPN)
  • Winner of Warriors-Kings at loser of Lakers-Pelicans (TBD, TNT)

No. 2 Seed Tank-Off

Knicks wanted No. 2. Were Bucks, Cavs scared?

We try not to get too religious here at the Bounce. But if you believe in the Basketball Gods, expect their wrath to strike down the Bucks and Cavs in the near future. We saw a curious avoidance of the No. 2 seed yesterday, with the Bucks getting absolutely hammered by the Magic and the Cavs allowing the G League tryout version of the Hornets to beat them. It landed the Bucks a first-round series with the Pacers and Cleveland a first-round matchup against Orlando.

The Knicks were looking to snag the No. 2 seed in the East, showing absolutely no fear of a potential first-round matchup with Joel Embiid’s 76ers or Jimmy Butler’s Heat. We often see teams jockey for favorable seeds in the final days of the regular season, but this one seemed odd for an Eastern Conference that has one certainty: the vaunted Celtics. The Bucks understandably have concerns with getting Antetokounmpo back on the court. The Cavs are banking on the inexperience of the Magic to help them reach the second round.

New York’s Villanova invasion and acquisition of OG Anunoby has turned the Knicks into a serious threat in the East, even without Julius Randle (shoulder). Will the good karma of competing to the end reward the Knicks and thwart the Bucks and Cavs?

Random performances from the 2023-24 regular-season finale

  • Celtics guard Payton Pritchard had a 30-point triple-double in the final game of last season. For this season’s finale, he had 38 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds.
  • The Pacers needed to win to avoid the Play-In. They put up 157 points on the Hawks in regulation to enjoy their fourth 150-point game of the season, which tied an NBA record.
  • There were 53 minutes in the Knicks’ 120-119 overtime win over the Bulls. Donte DiVincenzo played 52:31 of them.
  • Grizzlies rookie GG Jackson had 44 points and 12 rebounds in his final game of the season. He’s 19 years and 119 days old.
  • LeBron James had 28 points, 17 assists, 11 rebounds and five steals. He’s 19 years and 352 days older than GG Jackson.
  • Jordan Poole? Pistons? You’re off the hook. On the last day of the season, Aleksej Pokuševski had the worst play of the season.

Bounce Passes

Watch four hours of high-quality Wemby highlights.

This season saw a massive movement atop the West: the Thunder.

Expect some changes after Detroit’s sad season.

This Suns matchup is probably the Wolves’ nightmare scenario.

Screen Game (All times Eastern)

(Top photo: Tyler Kaufman / Getty Images )