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NBA Play-In Tournament explained

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Before the start of the 2020-2021 season, the NBA board of governors unanimously approved the NBA Play-In Tournament. The purpose of this is to determine which teams will get the final 7th and 8th seed playoff spot since the season is condensed to 72 games.

NBA Play-In Tournament explained

In this article, we will discuss everything about the 2022 NBA Play-In Tournament.

NBA Play-In Tournament Explained:

What is the NBA Play-In Tournament?

The NBA Play-In Tournament is simply a new format to determine which teams will get the 7th and 8th seed in the playoffs. This format was first implemented in Orlando’s bubble last season in order to determine which team will get the 8th seed. This time, the league wants to implement it fully.

The play-in tournament will be hosted on May 18-21 and will include teams that are seventh to tenth in standings. After this, the playoffs will promptly begin on May 22.


How does the NBA Play-in Tournament work?

The play-in tournament will consist of six games. The teams that will join are those who are 7th to 10th place in the standings for each conference. Meanwhile, the teams that will finish the regular season 1st to 6th place are already locked in for the playoffs; while the 11th place and below will be in the lottery.

Due to some postponements, the NBA will use winning percentage as the basis to determine the standings in the play-in tournament.

Here’s how it works:

  • The No. 7 team will face the No. 8 team in a one-game matchup. The winner will earn the 7th seed spot in the playoffs.
  • The No. 9 team will face the No. 10 team in a one-game matchup. The loser will be eliminated.
  • The loser of the No. 7 versus No. 8 game will face the winner of the No. 9 vs No. 10 game in a one-game matchup. The winner of this matchup will earn the 8th seed spot in the playoffs. Meanwhile, the loser will be eliminated.

See where it’s going? Basically, the battle for 7th seed is determined by one game. Since both teams finished strong (No. 7 and No. 8), both teams need only one game to prove themselves that they are worthy of the 7th seed. However, the losing team still has another chance by facing the winner of the No. 9 vs No. 10 game.

This format gives the No. 9 and No. 10 a chance to enter the playoffs and get the 8th seed. However, the odds are not in their favor. They have to become unbeatable in the play-in tournament to earn that 8th seed in the playoffs.


Once the 7th and 8th seeded teams are determined, the playoffs will now commence.

Pros and Cons of NBA Play-In Tournament


  • It gives chance to other teams in the middle, especially those who are in 8th-12th to compete for a spot in the play-in tournament. This gives them a fighting chance to make the playoffs via the play-in tournament.
  • This format gives fans more games to watch. When a team is vying for a playoff spot, they tend to give it all. Thus, the games will be entertaining to watch as teams go head to head.


  • More games mean more risk to injuries. As you have noticed, this season is packed with injuries. And we’re putting the blame on condensed games with little to no rests in between. Instead of having the time to rest before the playoffs, some teams still need to participate in the play-in tournament.
  • This format gives a slight disadvantage to the 7th and 8th place teams as they still have to compete for the play-in tournament. In the play-in series, they might lose two in a row and they are out. As Luka Doncic protested, “I don’t understand the idea of the play-in. You play 72 games to get in the playoffs, then maybe you lose two in a row and you’re out of the playoffs. I don’t see the point of that.” Mark Cuban backed this and expressed his disagreement as well.

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