Playoff games are set, as NBA looks to playoffs | Sports News

By TIM REYNOLDS, AP Basketball Writer

It lasted 174 days, required the use of more players than any season in history, mostly due to the ongoing challenge of playing through a pandemic, and saw playoff positioning chases go until the last moments.

Now move on, regular season.

The NBA playoffs are finally here.

Kyrie Irving can play at home again, a change of heart regarding vaccination rules that was made a few weeks ago by New York City in a move that will have an immediate impact on the NBA championship race. Irving and the Brooklyn Nets held off the Indiana Pacers 134-126 on Sunday and will host the first qualifier of this year’s tournament when they face the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday night.

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That game wasn’t set until Sunday, nor was the other Eastern Conference playoff: No. 9 Atlanta will host No. 10 Charlotte on Wednesday night. The winner of that game will play the Nets-Cavaliers loser on Friday to determine who will face No. 1 Miami in an Eastern first-round series.

The Nets-Cavaliers winner will be seeded No. 7 and will meet either Boston or Milwaukee in the first round.

Charlotte will be without striker Gordon Hayward, announcing on Sunday he was “out indefinitely with continued left foot discomfort”. Hayward’s foot will be placed in a cast for at least two weeks, which means if the Hornets win twice in the qualifying tournament and enter the playoffs, he will likely miss most of the first round, at a minimum as well.

As of the close of business on Sunday, four best-of-seven first-round series will also be determined.

Boston or Milwaukee will face No. 6 Chicago in an Eastern first-round series, and Philadelphia or Boston will face Toronto in another Eastern game.

In the West, Golden State and Dallas will compete later Sunday to see who will finish No. 3, while Utah and Denver both have chances to be No. 5.

Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid is the league scoring champion, averaging 30.6 points. He was held out of the 76ers final on Sunday, not that he needed to for statistical reasons.

Embiid, from Cameroon, becomes the first international player to win this title. Embiid is also the first center to win the scoring crown since Shaquille O’Neal in 1999-2000.

Only five players were able to play Sunday and officially participate in all 82 regular season games with their team this season: Mikal Bridges of Phoenix, Saddiq Bey of Detroit, Deni Avdija of Washington, Dwight Powell of Dallas and Kevon Looney of the Warriors.

Avdija played 82nd overall, scoring 12 points Sunday afternoon in the Wizards’ season-ending loss to Charlotte. Bridges, Bey, Powell and Looney all had matches later on Sunday.

It will be the fewest players in NBA history to appear in every game for a full regular season.

There were 11 players who took part in the 72 games last season, which was cut short due to the pandemic. There were 14 players in every game in 2019-20, when teams played a different number of games, again due to the pandemic, then not all teams advancing to the restart bubble at Lake Buena Vista , in Florida.

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