Play-in tournament: everything you need to know


Prior to the start of the 2020-21 season, the NBA unanimously approved a new play-in tournament on a one-year basis.

Here’s everything you need to know about the new format that will allow Steph Curry and LeBron James to compete against each other in the first game.

When is it?

The play-in tournament starts on Tuesday, May 18th and ends on Friday, May 21st. The playoffs will then continue as usual on May 22nd.

The second half of the regular season will be followed by the 2021 NBA Play-In tournament from May 18-21!

Teams with the 7th highest to 10th highest percentage of profits in each conference qualify for the 7th and 8th seed determination.

More information:

– NBA (@NBA) March 10, 2021

Who will qualify?

A total of eight teams, four from each conference.

How many games?

We have six basketball games at the two conferences, all live on Sky Sports.

How does it work?

The teams that finish seventh and eighth in each conference each have two options to secure a playoff spot in a do-or-die game.

On the other hand, the teams that finish ninth and tenth in each conference must each win two games in a row to secure a place in the playoffs.

The format for the new play-in tournament begins on Tuesday, May 18th and ends on Friday, May 21st. Source: NBA

This means that in game 1 # 7 aligns # 8 and the winner receives the seventh seed.

In game 2, # 9 will be host # 10. The winner of this competition then meets the loser of game 1 to decide on the eighth and final seed.

Because there is a chance teams can finish the regular season with different numbers of games played due to Covid-19, the NBA uses the win percentage (rather than the number of wins) to determine the overall standings.

Why was it implemented?

Probably due to the success of last season’s first play-in game between the Portland Trail Blazers and Memphis Grizzlies in the Florida Bubble. This was played because Memphis (the ninth seed) ended within four games of the eighth seed, Portland, before the season was canceled.

Another reason could be to prevent teams from refueling, especially in the second half of the season. This was already aided by the change in the lottery odds system in 2019, which essentially created more uncertainty about which selection the worst teams would end up with.

As of the Eastern Conference on May 10th.  Source:

As of the Eastern Conference on May 10th. Source:

As of the Western Conference on May 10th.  Source:

As of the Western Conference on May 10th. Source:

23 of the 30 teams have playoff positions to fight for in the last week of the regular season. The Chicago Bulls, New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings can still make the play-in.

That means…

From today’s perspective, Game 1 of the play-in would be a delicious match between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Golden State Warriors. That’s in the west where the Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs rank ninth and tenth.

In the east, the Boston Celtics compete against the Charlotte Hornets for the seventh time, while the Washington Wizards and Indiana Pacers battle for the right to face the loser in eighth.

The playoff picture from today's perspective.  Source:

The possible playoff bracket. Source:

What about the criticism?

Yes, the tournament has been criticized, particularly by Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks and star player Luka Doncic, as well as LeBron James.

Cuban sits on the NBA Board of Governors, which unanimously approved the play-in tournament ahead of the season. Even so, the Cuban told ESPN that he regretted the decision and that in hindsight it was a mistake.

“Instead of playing for a place in the playoffs and allowing the players to rest when the leaderboard becomes clearer, teams must view each game as a playoff game to either get into the top 6 or stay in the top 6, as the consequences, as Luka said, are enormous. ” ,” he explained.

“So players can play more games and more minutes in fewer days.”

Dallas Mavericks' Luka Doncic attempts a three-point basket in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets in Dallas, Thursday, May 6, 2021.  (AP Photo / Tony Gutierrez)


Luka Doncic answers questions from Shaq, Kenny, Chuck, and Ernie after leading his team past the nets at home

It’s no surprise the owner came out to punch for his star player after Luka Doncic criticized the play-in with the Mavericks in seventh place and battled to catch the Lakers.

“I don’t get the idea of ​​a play-in,” Doncic said last month. “You play 72 games to get into the playoffs, then you might lose two in a row and get out of the playoffs. So I don’t get the point.”

Funnily enough, the tables have turned and the Mavericks are in sixth place in the west – two games ahead of the Lakers and with the decisive tie-breaker.

Which meant LeBron James had to voice his own concerns about the new system last week after his Los Angeles Lakers lost their third game in a row.

Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James warms up before the team's NBA basketball game against the Sacramento Kings in Los Angeles on Friday, April 30, 2021.  (AP Photo / Marcio Jose Sanchez)


LeBron James had some good words for the NBA’s play-in tournament format when asked if the Lakers might need to earn their place in the postseason

“Anyone who made that up has to be fired,” said James after losing to the Toronto Raptors between 121 and 114.

Can you blame him

Not really, as the Lakers may now have to go through Curry and the Golden State Warriors to even make the playoffs.

Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry points to the sky after scoring against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first half of an NBA basketball game in San Francisco on Saturday, May 8, 2021.


Steph Curry reached his season high with 11 three-point points against the Oklahoma City Thunder and scored 49 points in 29 minutes

Unfortunately he is in the minority.

For most NBA fans, the new format simply means that all the drama and chaos of the NBA postseason will begin a little earlier this year with LeBron versus Steph, such a long final that may well take place on the first night.

Los Angeles Lakers striker LeBron James watches in an orange mask during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards


Mo Mooncey believes that LeBron James shouldn’t focus his anger on the idea of ​​the warm-up tournament, but rather on his team that let him down while injured.

How much could change?

With four regular season games there is still a lot to play.

In the west, Dallas needs any combination of wins or Lakers losses up to three to avoid the play-in tournament. Even so, the Portland Trail Blazers are only one game back and have the tie-breaker over the Mavericks.

The Sacramento Kings and New Orleans kept their play-in hopes alive with wins on Sunday night. Even so, it remains likely that the San Antonio Spurs will hold tenth place.

Due to a difficult remaining schedule for Golden State, the Memphis Grizzlies could continue to push the Warriors to eighth place.

Miami Heat's Jimmy Butler, 22, looks for an opening in the second half of a basketball game in Boston on Sunday, May 9, 2021, at Boston Celtics 'Jayson Tatum, 0, and Boston Celtics' Evan Fournier.  (AP Photo / Steven Senne)


Miami Heat highlights against the Boston Celtics in week 20 of the NBA

In the east, Miami seems to have pushed Boston into the play-in, although the two teams meet again on Tuesday evening. The Celtics must win to have any hope of recovering the sixth seed from the heat.

Elsewhere, the Pacers must hold the Bulls back on the final stretch, with Chicago just two and a half games behind, while the Wizards could jump the Hornets to eighth if Russell Westbrook approaches the three-time double record.


Steven Gregory