The NBA Playoffs begin later this month, and with their arrival comes the second consecutive year of the much beleaguered play-in tournament. With the tourney come new and unexpected rules, so here’s everything you need to know about the tourney.

It started last year, during the 2020 NBA playoffs, and was only applicable to the loaded Western Conference. In the league’s first ever play-in game, Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers took down Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies. This year’s play-in tourney should be even more fun and could feature stars like LeBron James, Lillard, Stephen Curry, Anthony Davis and Luka Doncic.

The play-in tourney is scheduled to start on May 18 and conclude on May 21. As fans, we’re fortunate enough to view six total games, three in each conference. There will be eight teams participating in this tilt. The rules are fairly straight forward. Teams in both the West and East  who finish in the range of the No. 1 seed through the No. 6 seed are guaranteed a playoff spot and don’t have to fight for the ability to continue playing. Teams that finish seventh through 10th will be featured in the play-in tourney. The seven and eight seeds have the largest advantage, as they only need to win a single game to advance, while the nine and ten seeds need to win two games to make the official playoffs.

In the first game of the tourney, the seventh seed plays the eight seed. The winner clinches the seventh seed in the playoffs and will prepare to face the two seed in a best-of-seven series. The loser of this games is still alive, and we’ll get back to them in a moment. In game two of the playoff tourney, the ninth seed and the tenth seed face off, with the winner advancing to game three to face the loser of game one. The loser of the game is headed for the offseason and the draft lottery. In game three, the most high-stakes game of them all, the winner of game two faces the loser of game one. The winner of this game, clinches the eight seed, and the loser clinches a trip home to watch the playoffs.


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This new format is fascinating and should shape up for an amazing playoffs this season.

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