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How Do the NBA Playoffs Work: 2021 NBA Play-In Tournament Explained

Isaiah De Los Santos
What is the NBA play-in tournament? New NBA playoff format for 2021 explained.
What is the NBA play-in tournament? New NBA playoff format for 2021 explained. / Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The 2020-21 NBA regular season will wrap up in mid-May, and all eyes are on who will make this year's playoffs. However, there are changes to this year's playoff format that will impact teams vying for a postseason berth.

NBA Play-In Tournament 2021 Rules

Here's everything you need to know about the 2021 NBA play-in tournament.

What is Play-In Tournament NBA?

The NBA has adopted a play-in tournament to add an additional factor for teams hoping to qualify for the 2021 NBA Playoffs. The top six teams in each conference will earn seeds 1-6 and be guaranteed a playoff spot. However, unlike years prior, seeds 7 and 8 won't be guaranteed a playoff spot. Instead, there will be a play-in tournament featuring seeds 7-10 to determine who gets the final two playoff spots.

New NBA Playoff Format

The 2021 NBA play-in tournament will be played between four teams in each conference. The 7-10 seeds in the West will play against each other to earn the two playoff spots (ultimately the 7 & 8 seeds), and the same will happen in the East.

How Do NBA Playoffs Work?

The 7 through 10 seeds in each conference will face off in the play-in tournament. The 9 and 10 seeds will play against each other in one game, and the 7 and 8 seeds will play each other in another game.

The winner of the 7/8 matchup automatically clinches a spot in the playoffs and will be the 7 seed against the 2 seed in the first round of the playoffs. The winner of the 9/10 matchup advances to the second round of the play-in, while the loser is eliminated.

The loser of the 7/8 matchup will play the winner of the 9/10 matchup in the final play-in game. The winner of that game clinches a playoff spot as the 8 seed against the 1 seed in the first round of the postseason.

What Happens After NBA Play-In Tournament?

Then the traditional NBA playoffs will begin. 16 teams playing best-of-seven series until a winner is determined in the NBA Finals.

When Do the NBA Playoffs Start 2021?

The NBA play-in tournament will be held May 18-21. The NBA Playoffs will then begin on Saturday, May 22, and run no longer than July 22.

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Isaiah De Los Santos is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Isaiah De Los Santos also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username zayyy05328. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in their articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.