What is the NBA Play-In Tournament?

Written by: Miles Jordan

Top Stories

What is the NBA Play-In Tournament?

Before the 2020-2021 NBA season, the NBA announced a new format to decide which teams are granted the right to be able to participate in the NBA postseason.

In the past, the NBA playoffs consisted of the top eight teams per conference (16 teams total). This new format allows the No. 9 and No.10 seeds to compete with the No.7 and No.8 seeds for a spot in the playoffs. This year, the play-in tournament dates are set, and we are waiting for the 7-10 seeds from each conference to be finalized to set the schedule.

On Tuesday, April 16, each conference’s No. 7 team in the standings will host the No. 8 team. The winners secure the No. 7 seed in the playoffs, while the losers will get another chance to earn a playoff spot on April 19.

On Wednesday, April 17, each conference’s No. 9 team in the standings will host the No. 10 team. The winners will advance to the final stage of the Play-In Tournament on April 19, and the losers will be eliminated.

On Friday, April 19, the losers of the No. 7 vs. No. 8 matchups will host the winners of the No. 9 vs. No. 10 matchups. The winners secure the No. 8 seed in the NBA playoffs for its conference. The losing teams are eliminated. Rather than having a best-of-7 series in the play-in, which is the format in the NBA playoffs, this win-or-go-home style bracket places a lot of pressure on the bottom four teams in the playoff race to perform at their highest ability to avoid the risk of elimination.

After the No. 7 and No. 8 seeds are set for each conference, the NBA playoffs will commence on April 20. The setup for each conference playoff bracket is as follows:

No. 1 vs No. 8, No. 2 vs No. 7, No. 3 vs No. 6, No. 4 vs No. 5.

As of April 11, 2024, the Philidelphia 76ers, Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls, and Atlanta Hawks are the No. 7-No. 10 seeds for the East, and the Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings, Los Angeles Lakers, and Golden State Warriors are the No.7-No. 10 seeds for the West. The Bulls, Hawks, Lakers, and Warriors have all clinched play-in bids, meaning their only chance to enter the postseason is by winning their play-in games. The Sixers, Heat, Suns, and Kings still have an opportunity to advance to a playoff spot in the top six seeds and avoid the play-in tournament.