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Maximum tension for the play in

Tensión máxima por el play in

The fight in the final stretch of the regular season is going to be tremendous. In large part, that’s what the play in. To take weight off tanking, to spice up these last weeks before the playoffs. To then have the emotion of those games to all or nothing. Who will be there? And where will they start from? Because now that the playoffs are upon us, it is good to remember that the eight (from the seventh to the tenth of the two Conferences) are in the same batch… but until a certain point. The seventh and eighth have two chances, the ninth and tenth have to win two games without fail, the tenth both away, to be in the playoffs.

Yesterday two games were played with obvious importance for that race of the play in:

TORONTO RAPTORS 117-CLEVELAND CAVALIERS 104

NEW ORLEANS PELICANS 126-CHICAGO BULLS 109

In El Oeste, there is a millimetric fight between the Pelicans (31-42), Lakers (31-42) and Spurs (29-44). One of the three will stay out, the other two will face each other, with home court advantage for whoever finishes ninth. And on the weekend, the Pelicans play the Spurs (Saturday) and the Lakers (Sunday). As if they were endings. Now, those from Louisiana return to that ninth place, tied with the Lakers, after overwhelming the Bulls (126-109 final) in the last quarter (40-24). The visitors ruled (86-88) after scoring first in that last quarter, and the inertia to be on their side after devouring the small advantages of the Pelicans. But Jose Alvarado appeared, an undrafted rookie who plays with fired energy and who scored 13 of his 15 points in those final 12 minutes. The turnaround was total: 107-92 at the halfway point, with no reaction possible for the Bulls without DeMar DeRozan and who, despite 39 points from Zach LaVine, are in a very delicate moment: five losses in six games. For the Pelicans, 30 points (a season high) and 5/7 triples for Graham, 25 and 6 assists for McCollum, 16 and 19 rebounds for Valanciunas and 6+2 for Willy Hernangomez. The Pelicans are where they wantedahead of the weekend’s key games and getting the injured Brandon Ingram back on track.

In the East, the mess is tremendous. Because In addition to the defeat of the Bulls, the Raptors beat the Cavs (117-104), who still have the tiebreaker in their favor because they had prevailed in their first three duels of the course against the Canadians. But the season is dragging on for the Ohioans, who have consistently racked up injuries and never have their ideal team on track. With Darius Garland (18 points and 10 assists, 7/18 shooting) visibly tired, the Cavs couldn’t overcome the abrasive intensity of the Raptors, a team ultra physical and very uncomfortable in which OG Anunoby returned and in which Siakam played a spectacular match: 35+5+6 with hardly any mistakes.

The thing is like this: the The Bulls are fifth at 42-31, the Cavs sixth at 41-32 and the Raptors seventh, also at 41-32. Fourth place is very far away, eighth a priori as well. So, party up or downtwo of these three teams will get rid of the play in and the other will have to play it … with the addition that the eighth in the East is now, and it will be with the permission of Charlotte Hornets, Brooklyn Nets. So, party up or downthe sixth will be in the playoffs and the seventh will have to play heads or tails, surely against Kevin Durant and company. Inertia is bad for the Bulls and Cavs, the two sensations of the East in the first half of the season but two teams that are coming very close to the end. The Raptors seem more complete, but we’ll see… because things are like this, party up, party down.

THE BUCKS CONTROL THE WIZARDS

In the last game of the day, less drama: the Bucks won (114-102) over the Wizards who have eight losses in nine games and they don’t even see him play in, a battle from which they actually dropped long ago. Those from the capital were able to cover up what was proving to be a catastrophic defeat: 94-66 at the start of the last quarter, 109-102 with two minutes to go. There Kentavious Caldwell-Pope missed a free throw followed by a 3-pointer by Grayson Allen. A four-point turnaround that ended any visitor comeback option.

The Bucks (46-27) are fighting for home court in the East. They are second to a game of the leadership but have only half a game over the fourth. So it was an important victory, especially since it came without Giannis Antetokounmpo (knee problems) and Khris Middleton (wrist). Without the all star, Jrue Holiday (24 points, 10 assists) led the charge with scoring support from Allen (21, 5/7 from 3-point range) and Connaughton (16) and weight in the zones from Brook Lopez, Portis and Ibaka. At the Wizards, without Kyle Kuzma, 16 points and 9 rebounds for Kristaps Porzingis.

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