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Whether you love or loathe the concept of the Play-In Tournament—I tend to side with LeBron James on this one—the NBA’s new wrinkle debuts Tuesday and hopefully it delivers some desired drama.

Featuring the two most successful franchises in NBA history, a pint-sized scoring champ having a career year, the polarizing triple-double king, the likely Rookie of the Year, last season’s Rookie of the Year, a team in turmoil, and a Spurs squad led by Gregg Popovich who’s rocking a biker’s mane these days, the Play-In Tournament, as Stefon from Saturday Night Live would say, has everything. Plus, the stakes are pretty high. Four out of the eight teams will officially earn inclusion into the 2021 NBA Playoffs while the other teams can start their summer as soon as Thursday.

If you’re still unfamiliar with how the Play-In Tournament works, here goes: We’re playing to determine the Nos. 7 and 8 seeds in each conference. The 7th and 8th seeded teams play each other, winner earns the 7th seed. The 9th and 10th seeds play each other, winner moves on to play the loser of the 7-8 matchup. Winner of that game earns the 8th seed. 

Got it? Good. Now here’s what you need to know, what you can expect from Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s games, plus some necessary predictions before the regular ol’ playoffs—like we’re all used to with seven-game series from the first-round through the NBA Finals—tip Saturday. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the show. And if these games are duds, know that LeBron will not hesitate to remind everyone he was right.


Eastern Conference

Pacers/Hornets winner plays Celtics/Wizards loser Thursday for right to be the No. 8 seed.