NBA play-in tournament

Professional basketball post-season games
  • United States:
  • ESPN/ESPN2
  • TNT/TruTV
  • Canada:
  • TSN
  • Sportsnet

The NBA play-in tournament is the preliminary National Basketball Association (NBA) postseason tournament. It determines the final two playoff seeds in the Eastern Conference and Western Conference and is played immediately prior to the NBA Playoffs, which is the main tournament of the postseason and regarded by the league as separate from the play-in tournament. Teams finishing the regular season in positions 7 through 10 in the standings for each conference compete to determine the number 7 and 8 seeds in each conference's bracket tournament.

Format

Original format

On June 4, 2020, the NBA Board of Governors approved the first ever play-in game for the 2019–20 season. The game was part of the NBA's plans for a bubble as part of its return to play during the COVID-19 pandemic. If the 8 and 9 seeds in either conference were within four games of each other, the two seeds would play each other in a best-of-two play-in game. If the 8 seed won the game, it would advance to the playoffs. If the 9 seed won, a second game would be played. Only if the 9 seed won the second game would it advance to the playoffs.[1]

Current format

On November 19, 2020, the NBA Board of Governors approved a format for the 2020–21 season to have a playoff play-in tournament involving the teams that ranked 7th through 10th in each conference. On July 22, 2022, the NBA Board of Governors made this format permanent.[2]

The format is similar to the first two rounds of the Page–McIntyre system for a four-team playoff. The 9th place team hosts the 10th place team, with the loser being eliminated. The 7th place team hosts the 8th place team in the double-chance game, with the winner advancing as the 7-seed. The loser of the 7/8 game hosts the winner of the 9/10 game, with the winner receiving the 8-seed. The NBA's regular playoff format then proceeds as normal.[3]

The current bracket structure in each conference is as follows:

Play-in gamesNo. 8 seed gameFinal seeds
7thplace teamHome7/8Winner of 7/8 gameNo. 7 seed
8thplace teamAway7/8/9/10Winner of No. 8 seed gameNo. 8 seed
7/8Loser of 7/8 gameHome
9/10Winner of 9/10 gameAway
9thplace teamHome
10thplace teamAway

Results

2020

2020 was the only season to use the original play-in game structure. The teams finishing 8th and 9th in each conference competed for the final playoff seed in their conference, but only if they finished within four games of each other,[1] in which case the lower-ranked team could advance to their conference playoffs only by defeating the higher-ranked team twice.

Western Conference

Because ninth-place Memphis (34–39) finished the season one-half game behind eighth-place Portland (35–39), a play-in was required to determine the 8th seed in the conference.[4]

9th place team Result 8th place team Seeding result
Memphis 122–126 Portland Because the higher ranked team won the game, a second game was not needed.
Portland advanced to playoffs as the 8th seed in their conference.

Eastern Conference

Because ninth-place Washington (25–47) finished 7+12 games behind eighth-place Orlando (33–40), no play-in was contested.[5]

9th place team Result 8th place team Seeding result
Washington N/A Orlando Orlando advanced to playoffs as the 8th seed in their conference.

2021

2021 was the first season to use the Page–McIntyre system. Teams finishing in positions 7 through 10 in each conference qualified for play-in games to determine the final two playoff seeds for each conference.[3]

Western Conference

Play-in gamesNo. 8 seed gameFinal seeds
7LA Lakers1037LA LakersNo. 7 seed
8Golden State1009MemphisNo. 8 seed
8Golden State112
9Memphis117 (OT)
9Memphis100
10San Antonio96

Bold Game winner
Italic Team with home-court advantage

Eastern Conference

Play-in gamesNo. 8 seed gameFinal seeds
7Boston1187BostonNo. 7 seed
8Washington1008WashingtonNo. 8 seed
8Washington142
9Indiana115
9Indiana144
10Charlotte117

Bold Game winner
Italic Team with home-court advantage

2022

2022 was the second season to use the Page–McIntyre system. Teams finishing in positions 7 through 10 in each conference qualified for play-in games to determine the final two playoff seeds for each conference.[3]

Western Conference

Play-in gamesNo. 8 seed gameFinal seeds
7Minnesota1097MinnesotaNo. 7 seed
8LA Clippers1049New OrleansNo. 8 seed
8LA Clippers101
9New Orleans105
9New Orleans113
10San Antonio103

Bold Game winner
Italic Team with home-court advantage


Eastern Conference

Play-in gamesNo. 8 seed gameFinal seeds
7Brooklyn1157BrooklynNo. 7 seed
8Cleveland1089AtlantaNo. 8 seed
8Cleveland101
9Atlanta107
9Atlanta132
10Charlotte103

Bold Game winner
Italic Team with home-court advantage


2023

2023 was the third season to use the Page–McIntyre system. Teams finishing in positions 7 through 10 in each conference qualified for play-in games to determine the final two playoff seeds for each conference.[3]

Western Conference

Play-in gamesNo. 8 seed gameFinal seeds
7LA Lakers108 (OT)7LA LakersNo. 7 seed
8Minnesota1028MinnesotaNo. 8 seed
8Minnesota120
10Oklahoma City95
9New Orleans118
10Oklahoma City123

Bold Game winner
Italic Team with home-court advantage

Eastern Conference

Play-in gamesNo. 8 seed gameFinal seeds
7Miami1058AtlantaNo. 7 seed
8Atlanta1167MiamiNo. 8 seed
7Miami102
10Chicago91
9Toronto105
10Chicago109

Bold Game winner
Italic Team with home-court advantage

2024

2024 will be the fourth season to use the Page–McIntyre system. Teams finishing in positions 7 through 10 in each conference qualified for play-in games to determine the final two playoff seeds for each conference.[3]

Western Conference

Play-in gamesNo. 8 seed gameFinal seeds
7New OrleansNo. 7 seed
8LA LakersNo. 8 seed
9Sacramento
10Golden State

Bold Game winner
Italic Team with home-court advantage


Eastern Conference

Play-in gamesNo. 8 seed gameFinal seeds
7PhiladelphiaNo. 7 seed
8MiamiNo. 8 seed
9Chicago
10Atlanta

Bold Game winner
Italic Team with home-court advantage


Results by position

The below table shows teams' results per their conference position entering the play-in tournament, since the NBA adopted the current format in 2021.

Regular season position Record by game Resulting playoff seed
Play-in game No. 8 seed game 7th seed 8th seed Did not advance
7 5–1 1–0 5 1 0
8 1–5 2–3 1 2 3
9 4–2 3–1   3 3
10 2–4 0–2   0 6

Television coverage

In 2020, ABC aired the only play-in game.[6]

In 2021, the tournament rights were split between TNT and ESPN, with TNT airing all Eastern Conference games, and ESPN all Western Conference games, coinciding with which conference finals each network was airing that year. In 2022 and 2023, TNT aired both 7–8 games, and ESPN aired both 9–10 games, but the rights for the final seed game was still determined by which conference finals each network was airing.[7][8]

In 2024, the league will return to the 2021 format, with ESPN airing all Eastern Conference games, and TNT all Western Conference games. Sister networks ESPN2 and TruTV, respectively, will also begin to have simulcasts/alternative broadcasts of selected games.[9]

In Canada, the home market of the Toronto Raptors, coverage is split approximately equally between the Sportsnet and TSN. Under their rights, the two broadcasters are allowed to produce their own feeds of Raptors games, otherwise they generally simulcast the U.S. broadcasters feed.

References

  1. ^ a b "Which Team Can Snag the Eighth Seed Before the 2020 NBA Playoffs?". Sports Illustrated. 5 June 2020. Retrieved April 3, 2022.
  2. ^ "NBA Board of Governors Approves Heightened Penalty for Transition Take Foul". Twitter. 2022-07-13. Retrieved 2022-07-13.
  3. ^ a b c d e "NBA announces structure and format for 2020-21 season". NBA.com. Retrieved November 19, 2020.
  4. ^ "Everything you need to know about Trail Blazers play-in game". NBC Sports. Retrieved April 3, 2022.
  5. ^ "NBA play in tournament: What is the NBA Play in event in Orlando Bubble?". The SportsRush. 5 August 2020. Retrieved April 3, 2022.
  6. ^ Simmons-Winter, Shakeemah (2020-08-09). "NBA Western Conference Play-in Game to Air on ABC Saturday, Aug. 15". ESPN Press Room U.S. Retrieved 2024-04-13.
  7. ^ "NBA Play-In Tournament 2021: Rules, dates and TV schedule". NBC Sports. 17 May 2021. Retrieved April 3, 2022.
  8. ^ "NBA Play-In Tournament: How to watch, matchups, schedule". NBC Sports Boston. 2022-04-11. Retrieved 2024-04-13.
  9. ^ "When are the NBA playoffs? Schedule, how to watch and things to know". NBA.com. Retrieved 2024-04-14.

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