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Marquette In The 2024 NBA Playoffs: Play-In Rounds Edition

UPDATE! Philadelphia beat Jimmy Butler, Jamal Cain, and Miami, 105-104 to take the #7 seed in the Eastern Conference. In the second game of the night, Chicago eliminated Wesley Matthews and Atlanta, 131-116. That sets up an eighth place game between Miami and Chicago on Friday night. Oh, and also: Jimmy Butler might have suffered a knee injury early in the game….. but also he did finish with 19 points, four rebounds, five assists, and five steals.

Who’s ready for NBA Playoff Basketball??

Well, if not, you’ve got a little bit of time left, because the NBA is branding this THE PLAY-IN TOURNAMENT, which is somehow not the Playoffs, but is also not the regular season, and also not the playoffs, at least in terms of tracking stats.

IN ANY CASE, that means it’s time to keep track of when the former Marquette players in The Association are in action, and as it happens, there’s three former Golden Eagles in action Wednesday night as the Eastern Conference takes the stage. There are two Play-In games on Wednesday night, and there’s MU interest on one side of each game.

Here we go!

Jimmy Butler & Jamal Cain: Miami Heat

Miami Heat finished the regular season with a record of 46-36, which gave them the 8th best record in the East. That puts them in the Win-And-You’re-The-#7-Seed game against the Philadelphia 76ers, and the game will be in Philadelphia since the Sixers had a one game edge in the standings. If Miami loses, they’ll head to Friday night’s 8th place game against the winner of the contest that we’ll be talking about in a moment.

Jimmy Butler played in 60 games for the Heat this season, averaging 20.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, 5.0 assists, and 1.3 steals per game. That makes him tied for the team lead in scoring with Tyler Herro as well as tops in assists and steals amongst qualifying players. Jamal Cain appeared in 26 games for Miami this year, including getting his first career start against the Clippers on New Year’s Day. 10 of his appearances this season have come since March 15th, but it’s mostly been a minute here and a minute there. All told, Cain averaged 3.7 points and 1.4 rebounds in 10 minutes per game.

Philadelphia presents an interesting challenge for the Heat. Yes, they’re the #7 seed, but big man and erstwhile MVP candidate Joel Embiid missed all of February and March with a meniscus injury. He returned to the active roster late in the year after the Sixers went 10-18 without him, and Philly won their final eight regular season games. So one hand: Much better than the #7 seed, on the other hand, Embiid was held out of the regular season finale after limping a bit in their second to last game.

Miami Heat at Philadelphia 76ers

Date: Wednesday, April 17, 2024
Time: 6pm Central
Location: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA
Television: ESPN

Miami Heat vs Chicago Bulls

Date: Friday, April 19, 2024
Time: 6pm Central
Location: Kaseya Center, Miami, Florida
Television: ESPN

Year #15 saw Everyone’s Favorite Undrafted Free Agent play 36 games for the Hawks this season as Atlanta went 36-46 to finish with the 10th best record in the Eastern Conference, three games behind Chicago, their host for this Play-In game. Matthews’ action for the Hawks was largely split between two big chunks with the first coming before Christmas and the rest coming since March 1st. With just three starts in his appearances, Matthews was mostly playing off the bench this year, averaging 11.5 minutes per outing. He was never the focus of the Hawks’ offense, averaging just 3.1 points to go with 1.5 rebounds per game.

As part of the 9/10 game, Atlanta is playing to keep their season going. Win, and they play the Philadelphia/Miami loser on Friday for the #8 seed. Lose, and their season is over, and that would clearly be a disappointment for head coach Quin Snyder’s first full season in charge after the Hawks got knocked out of the playoffs in the first round each of the past two campaigns.

The Bulls got off to a 5-14 start this season, so finishing at 39-43 — 34-29 since that start — is something of a pretty notable accomplishment. This is head coach Billy Donovan’s fourth season in charge, and they’ve only made the playoffs one time. That one appearance is their only playoff run since 2017, and the Bulls haven’t won a playoff series since Tom Thibodeau took them to the Eastern semifinals in 2015.

Atlanta Hawks at Chicago Bulls

Date: Wednesday, April 17, 2024
Time: 8:30pm Central
Location: United Center, Chicago, Illinois
Television: ESPN