NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, along with league owners and executives, sought to enhance the excitement of the playoff race for both teams and fans alike. As a result, they devised the play-in tournament to provide more teams with an opportunity to enter the 16-team postseason field.
The seventh to tenth placed teams from both the Eastern and Western conferences are assigned to separate tournaments, where they compete for the final two playoff spots in each conference.
Around a year ago, Silver expressed his contentment with the play-in tournament, stating, “We are highly satisfied with the results we have observed so far.
Our primary focus was on the actual play-in games and what we have witnessed is a significant impact on the final month of the season. Teams are either striving to qualify for the play-in tournament or are attempting to avoid it and secure the sixth seed.”
The NBA first implemented a shortened version of the play-in tournament during the 2020 bubble, before using the current format during the 2021 postseason.
If you are unfamiliar with the play-in setup this season, here is everything you need to know:
Which teams are in the NBA play-in tournament this season?
Eastern Conference: No. 7 Miami, No. 8 Atlanta, No. 9 Toronto, No. 10 Chicago.
Western Conference: No. 7 Los Angeles Lakers, No. 8 Minnesota, No. 9 New Orleans, No. 10 Oklahoma City.
What is the NBA play-in tournament format?
In both conferences, the seventh-place team will play against the eighth-place team, while the ninth-place team will play against the tenth-place team. The winner of the 7 vs. 8 game will clinch the seventh seed in the playoffs, while the loser of that game will play against the winner of the 9 vs. 10 game for the eighth seed. Teams in seventh and eighth place only need to win one game to secure their place in the playoffs, while teams in ninth and tenth place need to win two.
When are the play-in games?
- Atlanta Hawks at Miami Heat, 7:30 p.m. ET, TNT
- Minnesota Timberwolves at Los Angeles Lakers, 10 p.m. ET, TNT
- Chicago Bulls at Toronto Raptors, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
- Oklahoma City Thunder at New Orleans Pelicans, 9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
- Loser of Atlanta-Miami vs. winner of Chicago-Toronto, 7/7:30 p.m. ET, TNT
- Loser of Minnesota-Lakers vs. winner Oklahoma City-New Orleans, 9:30/10 p.m. ET, ESPN
Why is there an NBA play-in tournament?
The play-in tournament was introduced to provide more opportunities for teams to make the playoffs. In late March, 26 out of 30 teams were in contention, and by the final weekend of games, only nine teams had officially been eliminated from postseason contention.
League executives also hoped that the tournament would discourage tanking by giving more teams a chance to make the postseason.
What have been the results of the NBA play-in tournament?
In both the 2021 and 2022 postseasons, the seventh-place team has emerged victorious in the play-in tournament and earned the seventh seed. The ninth-place team has a perfect record of 4-0 against the tenth-place team, while the ninth-place team is 3-1 against the eighth-place team for the eighth seed. Despite their valiant efforts, no play-in team has managed to win a playoff series thus far.