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NBA Play-In Tournament LIVE Blog: Heat, T-Wolves clinch final spots

Recap all the action from the fourth annual NBA Play-In Tournament, as the Hawks, Heat, Lakers, and Timberwolves won their way into the NBA Playoffs.

The 2023 NBA Play-In Tournament is complete, with the Atlanta Hawks, Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers, and Minnesota Timberwolves earning playoff berths. 

Follow our NBA Playoffs Live Blog here.

Friday's results

#7 Miami Heat 102, #10 Chicago Bulls 91 

Big nights from Jimmy Butler (31 PTS) and Max Strus (31 PTS, 7 3PM) helped the Heat clinch the East's 8-seed and avoid elimination. Miami will now face the top-seed Milwaukee Bucks in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. 

Erik Spoelstra's team has high-pressure postseason experience that the Bulls do not, and it showed in the fourth quarter. Butler, Miami's 'closer', led a 15-1 run in the final period, including 11 of his own, to grow a double-digit advantage and put the game out of Chicago's reach: a familiar sight for Heat fans. 

The Heat were -1100 to reach the playoffs before the regular season. 

"The last 48 hours, I know how categorically, unequivocally, how badly and desperately our group wanted to get into this damn thing — and get into the playoffs to have an opportunity to compete for a title,” Spoelstra told AP News. 

Despite its series matchup against NBA-best Milwaukee, Miami has lofty expectations having reached the Finals in 2020 and the East Finals last season. 

The Heat are +750 to win the series vs. the Bucks and +15000 to win the NBA Championship.

View the latest odds to win each first round series. 

#8 Minnesota Timberwolves 120, #10 Oklahoma City Thunder 95

Minnesota's three-headed monster of Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Rudy Gobert showed up when it mattered.

The trio combined for 68 points and 31 rebounds - all three posted double-doubles - as the Timberwolves clinched the West's 8-seed and a first-round series against the Denver Nuggets.

Minnesota was -360 to make the playoffs before the regular season.

OKC, the youngest team in the NBA, can hold their heads high after an over-achieving campaign. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is a bonafide star, Josh Giddey and Lu Dort look to be a strong supporting cast, and 2022 second-overall pick Chet Holmgren will be healthy for next season.

Despite, the Play-In loss, 2022/23 can be seen as a success for the Thunder.

Play-In Finale Preview

The Play-In finales take place on Friday night, with two playoff spots - the 8-seed in each conference - still up for grabs. The Atlanta Hawks and Los Angeles Lakers clinched playoff berths via the Play-In earlier in the week. 

What#7 Miami Heat vs. #10 Chicago Bulls
WhereKaseya Center, Miami, Florida
When7 PM ET, Friday, April 14th, 2023
How to watchTNT
OddsHeat -5.5, Bulls +180 ML, Total O/U 209.0

Miami will need to bounce back from its poor Tuesday night showing against the Hawks to avoid missing the playoffs for the first time since 2019. The Heat allowed a season-high 22 offensive rebounds and 26 second-chance points in the defeat, something they cannot replicate on Friday night. 

The Bulls are underdogs heading into the Play-In decider, but Chicago beat Miami in all three regular-season meetings this year, including a 14-point victory on March 18. Billy Donovan's team won of 8 of its final 10 road games of the campaign, while star guard Zach LaVine is playing as well as anyone having dropped 39 in the win over Toronto. 

What#8 Minnesota Timberwolves vs. #10 Oklahoma City Thunder
WhereTarget Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota
When9:30 PM ET, Friday, April 14th, 2023
How to watchESPN
OddsTimberwolves -5.5, Thunder +180 ML, Total O/U 228.5

Rudy Gobert returns to the lineup on Friday night, after the 3x Defensive Player of the Year missed Tuesday's overtime loss to the Lakers via suspension for punching teammate Kyle Andersen in the regular season finale on April 9.

Gobert's return will surely bolster Minnesota's defense, but the T-Wolves need Anthony Edwards to improve on his 3-for-19 shooting night vs. LeBron and co. to avoid elimination. 

Their opponents are playing with house money. Oklahoma City is the second-youngest team in NBA history - their roster has an average age of 23.14 years old - and was expected to be one of the worst teams in the NBA this season. Their preseason win total was O/U 22.5 wins, a mark they passed on January 22. 

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey, and Luguentz Dort combined for 90 points on 52-percent shooting in Wednesday night's victory over the Pelicans and possess the firepower to do the same on Friday. 

Wednesday's results

#9 Toronto Raptors 105, #10 Chicago Bulls 109

Zach LaVine dropped 39 points as the Bulls came back from 19 down to defeat the Raptors and become the first 10-seed to win a game in the four-year history of the Play-In Tournament. 

Toronto’s offensive woes struck in a new way on Wednesday night. It wasn’t their bottom-five field goal (27th out of 30 in regular season) or three-point percentage (28th) that caused their downfall. 

Rather, it was their free-throw shooting. The Raptors shot a horrendous 18-for-36 (50%) from the stripe, including six misses in the fourth quarter. Now, four years removed from winning their first title in franchise history, Toronto will miss the playoffs. They were +215 to miss the postseason at the start of the year.

The Bulls showed the same resilience as they have over the last weeks of the regular season, when they won 11 of their final 17 games to confirm their place in the Play-In. 

Chicago’s work isn’t done – they will face the #7 Miami Heat on Friday, a true win-or-go-home contest to determine who meets the top-seed Bucks in the first round of the NBA Playoffs.

The Bulls entered Wednesday night at +725 to make the playoffs. They now sit at +180 to do so, needing one more win over Miami to clinch.

#9 New Orleans Pelicans 118, #10 Oklahoma City Thunder 123

Hours after the Bulls became the first 10-seed to triumph in the Play-In, the Thunder became the second. OKC is a win away from claiming the West’s 8-seed in a season many presumed they’d have one of the league’s worst records. 

Powered by a 25-point second half from Shai Gilgeous–Alexander and a near triple-double from Josh Giddey, the Thunder outlasted the more experienced, playoff-tested Pelicans to earn a date with the 8-seed Timberwolves on Friday night.

OKC is +180 to win the matchup and advance to the playoffs. They were +1400 to reach the playoffs before the start of the regular season, and +825 ahead of Wednesday night. 

Meanwhile, the Pels’ once-hopeful 2022/23 campaign ends by missing the playoffs, something that seemed unfathomable when they were 11 games over .500 in January. Their downward spiral can be credited in part to superstar Zion Williamson’s hamstring injury, which has kept the 2019 top overall pick sidelined since Jan. 2. 

New Orleans was +130 to miss the playoffs before the regular season.

Tuesday’s results

#7 Miami Heat 105, #8 Atlanta Hawks 116

Trae Young and Atlanta are NBA Playoffs bound for a third-straight season. 

The Hawks trailed for less than two minutes in their Tuesday night trouncing of the Heat, as Quin Snyder’s team will now pack their bags a first-round series against the 2-seed Boston Celtics. Star backcourt duo Young (25 PTS, 7 AST) and Dejounte Murray (18 PTS, 6 AST) led the Atlanta brigade that included 53 bench points from four players: Saddiq Bey (17), Bogdan Bogdanovic (14), Onyeka Okongwu (12), and Jalen Johnson (10). 

Big man Clint Capela also starred for the 8-seed, grabbing a season-high 21 rebounds, including eight on the offensive end. 

The Hawks were -225 to make the playoffs before the start of the regular season.

Miami, who made the Finals in 2020 and the conference finals last season, are one loss away from missing the playoffs. Jimmy Butler and co. will face the winner of Wednesday night’s #9 vs. #10 game between Toronto and Chicago for the East’s 8-seed.

“Come Friday, we have to play the legit exact opposite of how we played tonight,” Butler told AP News after the loss.

Prior to the defeat, the Heat were -1050 to reach the playoffs. They are now -225 to do so, needing a win on Friday night against either the Raptors or Bulls. Should they prevail, a first-round series with the #1 Milwaukee Bucks awaits.

#7 Los Angeles Lakers 108, #8 Minnesota Timberwolves 102 (OT)

The Play-In nightcap felt like a true NBA Playoff game. 

After clawing back from a 15-point deficit, the Lakers found themselves up three when Dennis Schroder (21 PTS) drained a three with 1.1 seconds remaining, surely the game-winning basket that would secure LA’s status as the 7-seed in the West.

Moments later, Lakers star Anthony Davis fouled Mike Conley on a buzzer-beating three-point attempt, sending Conley to the free-throw line for a chance to tie the game and send it to overtime, which he did. 

"It took everything out of us to get to where we are, and it took more out of us tonight," Davis told AP News.

LeBron James (30 PTS, 10 REB, 6 AST) led the way in the extra period to secure a victory for Los Angeles, who now have a first-round date with the #2 Memphis Grizzlies

Despite missing key pieces Rudy Gobert (suspension) and Jaden McDaniels (hand), the Timberwolves pushed one of the NBA’s hottest teams to the brink. Conley (23 PTS) and Karl-Anthony Towns (24 PTS) were the sparks for Minnesota. Leading scorer Anthony Edwards (24.6 PPG in regular season) shot an ugly 3-for-17 (0-for-9 from three) and finished with just nine points.

The T-Wolves (-230 to Make the Playoffs) will now face the winner of Wednesday’s Play-In battle between the #9 Pelicans and #10 Thunder

What was at stake on Tuesday night

Neither of Tuesday night’s games were do-or-die for the teams involved. The two losers will have another chance to save their season on Thursday, going up against the two winners of Wednesday’s #9 vs. #10 matchups.

That wrinkle won’t mean anything to those taking the court tonight, though. They would rather guarantee a spot in the playoffs than play a true single-elimination game on Wednesday, where they run the risk of ending their season. 

The Play-In participants are unlikely to indulge in close-mouthed strategy – meaning one of the teams playing tonight will ‘intentionally’ lose to avoid playing the 2-seed in a first-round playoff series.

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