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NBA playoffs 2021 – Experts’ predictions for play-in and Round 1

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The 2021 NBA postseason officially tips off Tuesday with the play-in tournament followed by the first round of the playoffs on Saturday.

After a thrilling end of the regular season with seeds finally decided on the last day, the Charlotte Hornets and the Indiana Pacers will start things on Tuesday in the East, followed by the Washington Wizards and the Boston Celtics in the late game.

On Wednesday, the San Antonio Spurs will face the Memphis Grizzlies in the early game in the West, followed by the Golden State Warriors taking on the Los Angeles Lakers.

The winners of Wizards-Celtics and Warriors-Lakers will earn the No. 7 seed in their respective conferences, while the losers will face the winners of Hornets-Pacers and Spurs-Grizzlies on Thursday and Friday to compete for the No. 8 seed. Got all that? Good.

Will the defending champions go home early? How many sweeps will there be in the first round? What about historic upsets? Our experts make their predictions for every play-in game and every first-round matchup.

MORE: What to know for the 2021 playoffs | Full playoff schedule


Eastern Conference play-in: Game 1s

Jerry Bembry: Celtics

Nick DePaula: Celtics

Nick Friedell: Celtics

Kirk Goldsberry: Wizards

Tim Legler: Wizards

Tim MacMahon: Wizards

Bobby Marks: Wizards

Dave McMenamin: Wizards

Monica McNutt: Wizards

Kevin Pelton: Wizards

Jorge Sedano: Celtics

Ramona Shelburne: Wizards

André Snellings: Wizards

Marc J. Spears: Wizards

Royce Young: Wizards

Ohm Youngmisuk: Wizards


Final tally: Wizards (12), Celtics (4)

Jerry Bembry: Pacers

Nick DePaula: Hornets

Nick Friedell: Pacers

Kirk Goldsberry: Hornets

Tim Legler: Hornets

Tim MacMahon: Hornets

Bobby Marks: Pacers

Dave McMenamin: Hornets

Monica McNutt: Pacers

Kevin Pelton: Pacers

Jorge Sedano: Pacers

Ramona Shelburne: Pacers

André Snellings: Pacers

Marc J. Spears: Pacers

Royce Young: Pacers

Ohm Youngmisuk: Hornets


Final tally: Pacers (10), Hornets (6)

Western Conference play-in: Game 1s

Jerry Bembry: Lakers

Nick DePaula: Warriors

Nick Friedell: Lakers

Kirk Goldsberry: Lakers

Tim Legler: Lakers

Tim MacMahon: Lakers

Bobby Marks: Lakers

Dave McMenamin: Lakers

Monica McNutt: Lakers

Kevin Pelton: Lakers

Jorge Sedano: Lakers

Ramona Shelburne: Lakers

André Snellings: Lakers

Marc J. Spears: Lakers

Royce Young: Lakers

Ohm Youngmisuk: Lakers


Final tally: Lakers (15), Warriors (1)

Jerry Bembry: Grizzlies

Nick DePaula: Grizzlies

Nick Friedell: Grizzlies

Kirk Goldsberry: Spurs

Tim Legler: Spurs

Tim MacMahon: Grizzlies

Bobby Marks: Grizzlies

Dave McMenamin: Grizzlies

Monica McNutt: Grizzlies

Kevin Pelton: Grizzlies

Jorge Sedano: Grizzlies

Ramona Shelburne: Grizzlies

André Snellings: Grizzlies

Marc J. Spears: Spurs

Royce Young: Grizzlies

Ohm Youngmisuk: Grizzlies


Final tally: Grizzlies (13), Spurs (3)

Eastern Conference: Round 1

Jerry Bembry: Heat in 6

Nick DePaula: Heat in 6

Nick Friedell: Bucks in 6

Kirk Goldsberry: Bucks in 7

Tim Legler: Heat in 7

Tim MacMahon: Bucks in 7

Bobby Marks: Bucks in 6

Dave McMenamin: Bucks in 7

Monica McNutt: Bucks in 7

Kevin Pelton: Bucks in 7

Jorge Sedano: Heat in 7

Ramona Shelburne: Bucks in 7

André Snellings: Bucks in 6

Marc J. Spears: Bucks in 7

Royce Young: Bucks in 6

Ohm Youngmisuk: Bucks in 7


Final tally: Bucks (12), Heat (4)

Jerry Bembry: Knicks in 6

Nick DePaula: Knicks in 6

Nick Friedell: Knicks in 6

Kirk Goldsberry: Knicks in 6

Tim Legler: Knicks in 6

Tim MacMahon: Knicks in 6

Bobby Marks: Knicks in 7

Dave McMenamin: Knicks in 6

Monica McNutt: Knicks in 6

Kevin Pelton: Knicks in 7

Jorge Sedano: Knicks in 7

Ramona Shelburne: Knicks in 5

André Snellings: Hawks in 6

Marc J. Spears: Knicks in 6

Royce Young: Hawks in 7

Ohm Youngmisuk: Knicks in 7


Final tally: Knicks (14), Hawks (2)

Western Conference: Round 1

Jerry Bembry: Nuggets in 7

Nick DePaula: Blazers in 7

Nick Friedell: Nuggets in 7

Kirk Goldsberry: Nuggets in 7

Tim Legler: Blazers in 7

Tim MacMahon: Nuggets in 6

Bobby Marks: Nuggets in 7

Dave McMenamin: Nuggets in 6

Monica McNutt: Blazers in 7

Kevin Pelton: Blazers in 6

Jorge Sedano: Blazers in 7

Ramona Shelburne: Nuggets in 7

André Snellings: Blazers in 7

Marc J. Spears: Blazers in 7

Royce Young: Blazers in 7

Ohm Youngmisuk: Nuggets in 7


Final tally: Blazers (8), Nuggets (8).

Jerry Bembry: Clippers in 6

Nick DePaula: Clippers in 6

Nick Friedell: Clippers in 6

Kirk Goldsberry: Clippers in 7

Tim Legler: Clippers in 6

Tim MacMahon: Clippers in 7

Bobby Marks: Clippers in 6

Dave McMenamin: Clippers in 5

Monica McNutt: Clippers in 6

Kevin Pelton: Clippers in 6

Jorge Sedano: Clippers in 6

Ramona Shelburne: Clippers in 5

André Snellings: Clippers in 5

Marc J. Spears: Clippers in 6

Royce Young: Mavericks in 7

Ohm Youngmisuk: Clippers in 6


Final tally: Clippers (15), Mavericks (1)

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Cleveland Cavaliers extend qualifying offer to Jarrett Allen

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CLEVELAND — The Cavaliers extended a qualifying offer Friday to center Jarrett Allen, making him a restricted free agent.

The team had until Aug. 1 to make the offer to Allen, a 23-year-old acquired last season in a trade from Brooklyn and viewed as one of Cleveland’s core pieces.

The Cavs can now match any offer given by other teams to Allen, whose size and athleticism at both ends of the floor makes him enticing.

General manager Koby Altman has expressed his hope to keep Allen in Cleveland long-term.

Allen, who played college ball at Texas, came to the Cavs as part of the blockbuster trade in January that sent star James Harden to the Nets.

Allen’s arrival pushed veteran Andre Drummond to the bench and eventually led to the team buying out the two-time All-Star center’s contract.

Allen averaged 13.2 points and 9.9 rebounds in 51 games — 40 starts — for Cleveland.

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Devin Booker, Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday available for Team USA opener vs. France

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TOKYO — The trio of players making the unprecedented jump from the NBA Finals to the Olympics are all scheduled to be in Japan by Saturday.

The hope is for Devin Booker, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday to be available when Team USA opens play Sunday against France, according to coach Gregg Popovich.

After attending the Milwaukee Bucks‘ championship parade Thursday, Middleton and Holiday are scheduled to fly to Seattle on Friday. There, they will join Booker, whose Phoenix Suns they helped eliminate on Tuesday, and take a private plane to Tokyo.

The pivot from being opponents in the NBA playing for the highest stakes to teammates on the national team going for a gold medal has happened over the years but never this suddenly, making it one of the more awkward scenarios in Team USA’s already fascinating history of intersecting star players.

“I would say just understanding competition and that it’s never personal between who you’re going with, unless lines are crossed,” Booker said this week discussing going from foe to teammate with the Bucks’ players. “Those guys aren’t that type and I would never go that way with them, because there’s a high respect level for each other. Representing your country is a whole different dynamic than competing against each other in the NBA Finals, but I can always respect somebody that competes at the highest level.”

With the lengthy procedures for entry into Japan, it is unlikely the new arrivals will get much more than a light walk-through with the rest of Team USA, which has been in Japan since Tuesday. But with an expected tough test against the French, Popovich is planning on using his reinforcements immediately, even if he’s not sure how it will play out.

“I have no idea [how to use them]. I’m not trying to be glib. I’m trying to be transparent,” Popovich said. “Maybe they’ll be OK for the game [Sunday] and it’ll hit them two days later. Maybe we should play them in the first half and see what they’re like.”

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Los Angeles Lakers extend qualifying offer to guard Talen Horton-Tucker

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The Los Angeles Lakers made their first move in what promises to be a busy offseason by extending a qualifying offer to second-year guard Talen Horton-Tucker, the team announced Thursday.

The qualifying offer for Horton-Tucker is $1.9 million, according to ESPN front office insider Bobby Marks, and will make the 20 year old a restricted free agent, allowing the Lakers to match any outside offer to retain their former second-round pick.

Los Angeles has early Bird rights and can re-sign Horton-Tucker for a contract that projects to start at $10.4 million, according to Marks. The contract must last at least two seasons.

Horton-Tucker averaged 9.0 points on 45.8% shooting with 2.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.0 steals in more than 20 minutes per game last season.

The Iowa State product made strides in his second year in the league, memorably filling up the box score with 14 points, 11 assists and three steals in a road win over the Brooklyn Nets in April and played 13 games when he scored 15 points or more, during which the Lakers had an 8-5 record.

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