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2020-21 NBA season: How does the NBA play-in tournament work?

New York Knicks v Brooklyn Nets
New York Knicks v Brooklyn Nets
Evan Tiwari
Modified 06 Apr 2021

Before the start of the 2020-21 NBA season, the board of governors agreed on implementing an NBA Play-In Tournament in the current campaign. The league conducted an experiment regarding the same last season, with the Portland Trail Blazers prevailing over a young Memphis Grizzlies side to earn the final playoff berth in the Western Conference.

Fans are both confused and excited about the aforementioned tournament, and in this article, we will take a deep dive into the details surrounding this contest.

2020-21 NBA season: Taking a look at the workings of NBA play-in tournament

Memphis Grizzlies v Portland Trail Blazers - Game One
Memphis Grizzlies v Portland Trail Blazers - Game One

The NBA play-in tournament is scheduled to take place after the regular season and end before the playoffs. To be precise, it will begin on Tuesday, May 18th, and end on Friday, May 21st 2021.

The NBA play-in tournament will involve teams with the seventh-highest through the tenth-highest winning percentage in each conference. The teams with 7th and 8th best winning percentages will have 2 opportunities to win one game and advance to the playoffs, while the teams with 9th and 10th best records will have to emerge victorious in both their games to make it to the playoffs.

Also Read: Player In Focus: Tyler Herro and his journey so far with the Miami Heat | NBA Season 2020-21

The NBA play-in tournament will begin with the 7th seed of each conference taking on the 8th seed, winner earning the 7th seed and a playoff ticket. For example, hypothetically, if Eastern Conference teams Boston Celtics (7th seed) play the New York Knicks (8th seed) in the first round of the NBA play-in tournament and manage to lose, the latter will be awarded the 7th seed.

Following that, the 9th seed and the 10th seed in each conference will play out a knock-out game, winner of which will take on the loser of the 7th seed vs 8th seed game. Continuing with the example mentioned above, the Boston Celtics will play the winner of Indiana Pacers (9th seed) vs Chicago Bulls (10th seed) in an eliminator. The team that wins this fixture will progress to the playoffs as the 8th seed.


The winners of the NBA play-in tournament will then advance to the playoffs, where they will be part of the conventional 16-team affair, with franchises playing a series of best-of-seven games to win the NBA championship.

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Published 06 Apr 2021, 23:28 IST
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