Friday night's play-in games marred by major injuries to star players

Miami Heat v Philadelphia 76ers - Play-In Tournament
Miami Heat v Philadelphia 76ers - Play-In Tournament / Tim Nwachukwu/GettyImages

The final NBA play-in tournament games will take place on Friday night and then the entire playoff bracket will finally be set. These games should be a lot of fun as the winning teams will grab the 8 seeds in the Eastern and Western Conferences while the two losers will see their seasons come to an abrupt end.

On the surface, these should be two very fun matchups, but unfortunately, it’s impossible not to focus on the major injuries in both games.

East Play-In: Chicago Bulls @ Miami Heat, 7:00 PM EST - ESPN

The Heat lost a rockfight to the 76ers on Wednesday in tight fashion that would have given them the 7 seed. Now the defending East champs have to rebound and beat the Bulls just to make the playoffs at all. 

That task will be significantly more difficult as they’re now without the services of Jimmy Butler. Butler appeared to suffer a gruesome knee injury in the first half of their loss in Philly. He was able to play through the pain but clearly was not himself.

Now it turns out he suffered an MCL sprain and will be out for several weeks. That obviously makes Friday night’s do-or-die game a major challenge but also means even if the Heat win, they’ll be facing the Boston Celtics without their best player.

The Bulls beat the Hawks in convincing fashion but had an injury scare of their own as Andre Drummond ran into Alex Caruso, stepping on his foot, causing Caruso to badly sprain his ankle. He came back in the game but didn’t look right and sat the entire fourth quarter. There’s optimism he can suit up but it’s no sure thing.

The pick: Heat 101 - Bulls 93

West Play-In: Sacramento Kings @ New Orleans Pelicans

The Pels almost pulled off a great comeback to beat their bugaboo, the Lakers but fell just short. Zion Williamson looked incredible and had one of the best games of his career. But sadly, it came with a price as Zion hurt himself with about three minutes left, wasn’t able to return, and has now been ruled out for a few weeks with a knee injury.

It’s just an absolutely devastating blow for a team that had high hopes. The Kings crushed the Warriors - which must have felt good - but they’ve got their own injuries with Malik Monk and Kevin Huerter remaining out. Either team will have their work cut out for them if they win and face the Thunder at less than full strength.

The pick: Kings 122 - Pelicans - 114