How Does the NBA Play-In Tournament Work?

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How Does the NBA Play-In Tournament Work?

Chicago Bulls, NBA, News

The NBA regular season has finally come to a close. The NBA Playoffs begin with the Play-In Tournament which begins on Tuesday night. In its second season, the Play-In Tournament format is a little different from a normal tournament. So we’re here to explain it.

How The NBA Play-In Tournament Works

The top six teams in each conference are guaranteed a spot in the NBA Playoffs. By contrast, the teams that finished the season seventh through tenth in the standings enter the Play-In Tournament. This is NOT a traditional tournament where the seven seed plays the ten seed. 

Instead, the seventh place team will host a one-game playoff with the eighth place team. The winner of that game advances to the playoffs as the seven seed. The ninth place team will host a one-game playoff with the tenth place team. The loser of that game is eliminated. The winner of the 9-10 game hits the road to play the loser of the 7-8 game. The winner of that game makes the Playoffs as the eight seed.

2023 NBA Play-In Tournament Schedule

Tuesday, April 11

#8 Hawks at #7 Heat – 7:30pm, TNT

#8 Timberwolves at #7 Lakers – 10pm, TNT

Wednesday, April 12

#10 Bulls at #9 Raptors – 7pm, ESPN

#10 Thunder at #9 Pelicans – 9:30pm, ESPN

Friday, April 14

East 9/10 Winner at East 7/8 Loser – TBD, TNT

West 9/10 Winner at West 7/8 Loser – TBD, ESPN

How the Play-In Tournament Works in 2023

Still confused? Let’s use this year’s Play-In Tournament to dive into it further. On Tuesday night, both seven vs eight games will take place. In the Eastern Conference the seventh-place Miami Heat host the eighth-place Atlanta Hawks. In the Western Conference, the seventh-place Lakers host the unnecessarily dramatic eighth-place Timberwolves.

Let’s just assume for this exercise the home teams win. In that case, Miami and Los Angeles both advance to the Playoffs. The Heat would be the seven seed in the East and play the two-seed Celtics in the first round. The Lakers would be the seven seed in the West and play the two-seed Grizzlies. You can expect Shannon Sharpe to be courtside for that.

Atlanta and Minnesota would NOT be eliminated, though. Both teams would host another Play-In game. On Wednesday, the ninth-place Raptors host the tenth-place Bulls in the East. The ninth-place Pelicans host the tenth-place Thunder. Let’s just say both tenth-place teams win here. 

That means that the Bulls would travel to Atlanta to play the Hawks. The winner of that game is the eight seed and will play Milwaukee in the first round. In the west, the Thunder would travel to Minnesota with the winner of that game advancing to face the top-seeded Nuggets in the first round. 

The Play-In Tournament exists as a way to make more games at the end of the regular season matter. Not every team seems to be on board with that idea, however.

Author: Dan Weiner

Hailing from Atlanta and attending college at the University of Texas, Dan is passionate about sports, particularly college football and soccer. He's a diehard Atlanta pro sports and Texas Longhorns fan. He likes every sport and will watch anything and everything the weirder the better. He joined Betsperts after an 11 year career in television production at ESPN.