NBA Playoffs: Seeding & Play-In Tournament Explained

The NBA is one of America’s most popular professional sports leagues. Hallmark games in the NBA routinely draw millions of viewers, especially for Christmas Day games, Opening Night and the Playoffs. Recently, the NBA made some changes to their playoff format to increase the excitement, and now 20 of the 30 franchises compete in postseason play.

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How Do the NBA Playoffs Work?

As it is currently structured, the NBA is separated into two conferences: the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference. Beyond a few geographical anomalies and a handful of franchises that have relocated, teams that are West of the Mississippi River play in the Western Conference and those East play in the Eastern Conference.

Each conference is split into three divisions. In the East, the three divisions are the Atlantic, Central and Southeast. In the West, they are the Pacific, Northwest and Southwest. Each division has five teams, and each division winner claims a Top 3 seed (or ranking) in their conference. The remaining seeds in each conference are assigned based on overall regular season record, from the fourth seed all the way to the sixth spot.

In 2022, the NBA announced it would adopt the Play-In Tournament on a full-time basis. The Play-In Tournament serves to increase the number of teams that remain in the playoff hunt throughout the regular season. Four teams square off to claim the final two spots in the traditional playoffs.

Once the teams have completed the Play-In Tournament, the traditional playoff format commences. The higher seeded teams in each round receive home court advantage through to the NBA Finals. Each series is a best-of-seven format, played in a 2-2-1-1-1 format where the home team hosts Games 1, 2, 5, and 7 (if the NBA Finals goes to seven games). The home team in the NBA Finals is determined by who has the better regular season record between the two teams.

How does the NBA Play-In Tournament Work?

What has changed in recent years is how teams win the right to the seventh and eighth seed. During the 2020 season, the league announced that there would be a Play-In Tournament between the teams in each conference who have the seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth best winning percentages. The seventh seed would host the eighth seed in the same conference, and the winner of that game is awarded the seventh seed. Similarly, the ninth seed hosts the tenth seed, and the winner of that game squares off against the team that loses the Seven-Eight Game to receive the eighth seed in the standard playoffs. The team that loses the Nine-Ten Game is eliminated.

NBA Playoffs FAQs

Are teams reseeded after the Play-In Tournament?

No. The Play-In Tournament is structured so that the winner of the Seven-Eight game gets the seventh seed, and the winner of the final sudden elimination game receives the eighth seed.

What happens to the teams that lose the Play-In Tournament?

If a team loses in the Play-In Tournament, their season is over.

What is the format of the NBA Playoffs?

Each series in the NBA is a best-of-seven, where the team that has the higher seed (or a better regular season winning percentage in the NBA Finals) hosts Games 1, 2, 5, and 7.

How many teams will make the NBA Playoffs?

Only 16 teams make the traditional NBA Playoffs. However, 20 teams qualify for postseason consideration. Find NBA tickets for your favorite NBA team right here on Ticketmaster.

How many rounds are in the NBA Playoffs?

The Play-In Tournament consists of two single elimination rounds. The NBA Playoffs consist of four rounds: opening round, Conference Semifinals, Conference Finals, and NBA Finals.

Who gets home court advantage in the NBA Playoffs?

In the first three rounds, home court advantage is awarded to the team that is seeded higher. In the NBA Finals, home court advantage is awarded to the team with a higher regular season win percentage.

How do I get tickets for the NBA Playoffs?

Tickets for the NBA Playoffs can be purchased right here on Ticketmaster.

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