How Does The NBA Play-In Work? Everything You Need to Know!

How Does The NBA Play-In Work? Everything You Need to Know!

The National Basketball Association, or NBA, is the world’s premier professional basketball league. Each year, the best players from around the globe come together to compete for the NBA championship.

The NBA season is made up of two parts: the regular season and the playoffs. During the regular season, teams play each other several times to try to win as many games as possible. The playoffs are a single-elimination tournament that takes place after the regular season. The team that wins the playoffs is crowned the NBA champion.

So, how does NBA play in work?

The Play-In Tournament’s Past

The NBA Play-In Tournament is a relatively new idea; the 2021 playoffs marked the debut of the current structure, but the 2020 playoffs featured a play-in tournament that used a similar model but was hosted solely in Orlando due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Eastern Conference nine-versus-ten game, in which the Indianapolis Pacers defeated the Charlotte Hornets 144-117, served as the inaugural play-in game under the current structure. The Washington Wizards won the following game against the Indiana Pacers, giving them the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

The Play-In Tournament's Past

In the first play-in tournament, the higher seed won each game. Hence the playoff seeding was determined as it would have been had there been no play-in tournament.

Play In Tournament Format

Eight teams from each conference advance to the postseason at the end of the NBA season, with the seeding based on the regular-season record. In the first round, the top team from each conference takes on the eighth-best team, the second-best club faces the seventh-best team, and so on.

Any top 10 clubs in each conference have a chance to participate in the playoffs because of the play-in structure.

The top six teams in each conference are guaranteed a position in the playoffs without competing in a play-in tournament, while teams ranked seven through ten must do so to qualify for the playoffs.

Format: Play-In Tournament

The seven and eight seeds, with the seven seed playing at home, and the nine and ten seeds, with the nine seed playing at home, square off in the first play-in tournament games. The victor of the match between the teams with seven and eight wins the conference’s seventh seed and will face the second seed in the opening round of the playoffs.

The loser of this game will need to play the victor of the nine-versus-ten game to have one more chance to secure a playoff spot. The victor of the nine-versus-ten game must play the loser of the seven-versus-eight game to secure a position in the playoffs, while the loser is automatically eliminated from playoff contention.

For instance, if the eighth-best club wins the first play-in game against the seventh-best team, the eighth team receives the seven-seed for the playoffs, while the seventh team will face the victor of the nine-versus-ten game.

Theoretically, if the nine-seed beats the ten-seed, the nine-seed will have to travel to face the seven-seed. The conference’s last playoff slot goes to the winner of this seven-versus-nine contest, while the loser is eliminated. These games do not take place in series like the playoffs, and each contest is decided in a single game.

The Play-In Tournament’s Purpose

In essence, the play-in competition exists to encourage competition in the NBA. The NBA has experimented with numerous strategies to stop players from purposefully losing games to gain a better draft pick. This has been accomplished partly through the NBA’s draft lottery, which guarantees no team a certain draft pick regardless of how poorly they do during the regular season.

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Although the lowest seed to ever win the NBA Finals were the six-seed Houston Rockets in 1995, 20 of the 30 clubs, or 67 percent of the league, play playoff basketball of some kind through the play-in tournament, meaning they technically have the chance to win a title.

The Play-In Tournament's Purpose

The NBA wants fewer teams to tank and more teams to be competitive because more teams will have a chance to win a championship thanks to the play-in round.

Under the play-in structure, teams that would have had practically no chance to make the playoffs otherwise have a chance. For instance, the New Orleans Pelicans started the 2021–2022 season by dropping 12 of their first 13 games before finishing with a 36–46 record and earning the ninth seed in the Western Conference.

The New Orleans Pelicans wouldn’t have a chance to play in the playoffs without a play-in tournament, but after defeating the San Antonio Spurs in the nine-versus-ten game, they now have a chance to do so if they win the Los Angeles Clippers in the eight-versus-nine win-or-go-home game.

If they win, they will play the Phoenix Suns in the playoffs. The Pelicans probably wouldn’t have attempted to contend for a playoff spot without the play-in tournament. They probably wouldn’t have traded for top player CJ McCollum from the Portland Trail Blazers at the trade deadline.

How Many Teams Are In The NBA?

The NBA currently has a total of 30 franchises. The Western Conference and the Eastern Conference are the two conferences that make up the Union. During the 2004–05 season, the divisional arrangement as it is today made its debut.

There are 5 NBA teams in each division. Before enjoying March Madness, being familiar with the basketball team you are betting on is best. All current NBA teams are listed below, along with their home venue.

How Many Teams Are In The NBA?

NBA Western Conference Teams

Northwest Division

  • Denver Nuggets (Pepsi Center – Denver, Colorado)
  • Minnesota Timberwolves (Target Center – Minneapolis, Minnesota)
  • Oklahoma City Thunder (Chesapeake Energy Arena – Oklahoma City, Oklahoma)
  • Portland Trail Blazers (Moda Center – Portland, Oregon)
  • Utah Jazz (Vivint Smart Home Arena – Salt Lake City, Utah)

Southwest Division

  • Dallas Mavericks (American Airlines Center – Dallas, Texas)
  • Houston Rockets (Toyota Center – Houston, Texas)
  • Memphis Grizzlies (FedEx Forum – Memphis, Tennessee)
  • New Orleans Pelicans (Smoothie King Center – New Orleans, Louisiana)
  • San Antonio Spurs (AT&T Center – San Antonio, Texas)

Pacific Division

  • Golden State Warriors (Chase Center – San Francisco, California)
  • Los Angeles Clippers (Staples Center – Los Angeles, California)
  • Los Angeles Lakers (Staples Center – Los Angeles, California)
  • Phoenix Suns (Talking Stick Resort Arena – Phoenix, Arizona)
  • Sacramento Kings (Golden 1 Center – Sacramento, California)

NBA Eastern Conference Teams

Central Division

  • Chicago Bulls (United Center – Chicago, Illinois)
  • Cleveland Cavaliers (Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse – Cleveland, Ohio)
  • Detroit Pistons (Little Caesars Arena – Detroit, Michigan)
  • Indiana Pacers (Bankers Life Fieldhouse – Indianapolis, Indiana)
  • Milwaukee Bucks (Fiserv Forum – Milwaukee, Wisconsin)

Southeast Division

  • Atlanta Hawks (State Farm Arena – Atlanta, Georgia)
  • Charlotte Hornets (Spectrum Center – Charlotte, North Carolina)
  • Miami Heat (American Airlines Arena – Miami, Florida)
  • Orlando Magic (Amway Center – Orlando, Florida)
  • Washington Wizards (Capital One Arena – Washington, D.C.)

Atlantic Division

  • Boston Celtics (TD Garden – Boston, Massachusetts)
  • Brooklyn Nets (Barclays Center – Brooklyn, New York)
  • New York Knicks (Madison Square Garden – New York City, New York)
  • Philadelphia 76ers (Wells Fargo Center – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
  • Toronto Raptors (Scotiabank Arena – Toronto, Ontario)

2022-23 Key Dates: When Do NBA Playoffs Start

2022-23 Key Dates: When Do NBA Playoffs Start


Teams may start negotiations with free agents as of June 30. (beginning at 6 p.m. ET)

California Classic Summer League, July 2–3, (San Francisco, California: Lakers, Heat, Kings, Warriors)

Salt Lake City Summer League, July 5–7. (Salt Lake City, Utah: Grizzlies, Thunder, 76ers, Jazz)

On July 6, teams may start negotiating contracts with free agents (12:01 p.m. ET)

NBA 2K23 Summer League, July 7–17 (Las Vegas: All 30 teams)

Weekend of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Inductions, September 9–10 (Springfield, MA)

Warriors and Wizards will participate in the NBA Japan Games 2022, held on October 1 and 2. (Tokyo, Japan)

Milwaukee Bucks and Atlanta Hawks will compete in the Abu Dhabi Games in 2022 on October 6 and 8. (Abu Dhabi, UAE)

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Detroit Pistons and Chicago Bulls will play in an NBA Paris game on January 19, 2023.

Feb. 17–19, 2023, NBA All-Star (Salt Lake City, UT)

Key Dates for 2023–24


NBA All-Star 2024, February 16–18 (Indianapolis, IN)

2022 NBA Playoffs schedule: Conference Championships

The game schedule for the first three rounds of the 2022 NBA Playoffs is shown below. On June 2, the NBA Finals are slated to start.


Miami Heat (1) vs. Boston Celtics (2)

  • Game 1: Miami 118, Boston 107
  • Game 2: Boston 127, Miami 102
  • Game 3: Miami 109, Boston 103
  • Game 4: Boston 102, Miami 82
  • Game 5: Boston 93, Miami 80
  • Game 6: Miami 111, Boston 103
  • Game 7: Boston 100, Miami 96

Celtics win series 4-3


Golden State Warriors (3) vs. Dallas Mavericks (4)

  • Game 1: Golden State 112, Dallas 87
  • Game 2: Golden State 126, Dallas 117
  • Game 3: Golden State 109, Dallas 100
  • Game 4: Dallas 119, Golden State 109
  • Game 5: Golden State 120, Dallas 110

Warriors win series 4-1

2022 NBA Playoffs schedule: Conference Championships

Conference semifinals:


Boston Celtics (2) vs. Milwaukee Bucks (3)

  • Game 1: Milwaukee 101, Boston 89
  • Game 2: Boston 109, Milwaukee 86
  • Game 3: Milwaukee 103, Boston 101
  • Game 4: Boston 116, Milwaukee 108
  • Game 5: Milwaukee 110, Boston 107
  • Game 6: Boston 108, Milwaukee 95
  • Game 7: Boston 109, Milwaukee 81

Celtics win series 4-3

Miami Heat (1) vs. Philadelphia 76ers (4)

  • Game 1: Miami 106, Philadelphia 92
  • Game 2: Miami 119, Philadelphia 103
  • Game 3: Philadelphia 99, Miami 79
  • Game 4: Philadelphia 116, Miami 108
  • Game 5: Miami 120, Philadelphia 85
  • Game 6: Miami 99, Philadelphia 90

Heat win series 4-2


Memphis Grizzlies (2) vs. Golden State Warriors (3)

  • Game 1: Golden State 117, Memphis 116
  • Game 2: Memphis 106, Golden State 101
  • Game 3: Golden State 142, Memphis 112
  • Game 4: Golden State 101, Memphis 98
  • Game 5: Memphis 134, Golden State 95
  • Game 6: Golden State 110, Memphis 96

Warriors win series 4-2

Phoenix Suns (1) vs. Dallas Mavericks (4)

  • Game 1: Phoenix 121, Dallas 114
  • Game 2: Phoenix 129, Dallas 109
  • Game 3: Dallas 103, Phoenix 94
  • Game 4: Dallas 111, Phoenix 101
  • Game 5: Phoenix 110, Dallas 80
  • Game 6: Dallas 113, Phoenix 86
  • Game 7: Dallas 123, Phoenix 90

Mavericks win series 4-3

First-round series:


Miami Heat (1) vs. Atlanta Hawks (8)

  • Game 1: Miami 115, Atlanta 91
  • Game 2: Miami 115, Atlanta 105
  • Game 3: Atlanta 111, Miami 110
  • Game 4: Miami 110, Atlanta 86
  • Game 5: Miami 97, Atlanta 94

Heat win series 4-1

Boston Celtics (2) vs. Brooklyn Nets (7)

  • Game 1: Boston 115, Brooklyn 114
  • Game 2: Boston 114, Brooklyn 107
  • Game 3: Boston 109, Brooklyn 103
  • Game 4: Boston 116, Brooklyn 112

Celtics win series 4-0

Milwaukee Bucks (3) vs. Chicago Bulls (6)

  • Game 1: Milwaukee 93, Chicago 86
  • Game 2: Chicago 114, Milwaukee 110
  • Game 3: Milwaukee 111, Chicago 81
  • Game 4: Milwaukee 119, Chicago 95
  • Game 5: Milwaukee 116, Chicago 100

Bucks win series 4-1

Philadelphia 76ers (4) vs. Toronto Raptors (5)

  • Game 1: Philadelphia 131, Toronto 111
  • Game 2: Philadelphia 112, Toronto 97
  • Game 3: Philadelphia 104, Toronto 101 (OT)
  • Game 4: Toronto 110, Philadelphia 102
  • Game 5: Toronto 103, Philadelphia 88
  • Game 6: Philadelphia 132, Toronto 97

Sixers win series 4-2


Phoenix Suns (1) vs. New Orleans Pelicans (8)

  • Game 1: Phoenix 110, New Orleans 99
  • Game 2: New Orleans 125, Phoenix 114
  • Game 3: Phoenix 114, New Orleans 111
  • Game 4: New Orleans 118, Phoenix 103
  • Game 5: Phoenix 112, New Orleans 97
  • Game 6: Phoenix 115, New Orleans 109

Suns win series 4-2

Memphis Grizzlies (2) vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (7)

  • Game 1: Minnesota 130, Memphis 117
  • Game 2: Memphis 124, Minnesota 96
  • Game 3: Memphis 104, Minnesota 95
  • Game 4: Minnesota 119, Memphis 118
  • Game 5: Memphis 111, Minnesota 109
  • Game 6: Memphis 114, Minnesota 106

Grizzlies win series 4-2

Golden State Warriors (3) vs. Denver Nuggets (6)

  • Game 1: Golden State 123, Denver 107
  • Game 2: Golden State 126, Denver 106
  • Game 3: Golden State 118, Denver 113
  • Game 4: Denver 126, Golden State 121
  • Game 5: Golden State 102, Denver 98
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Warriors win series 4-1

Dallas Mavericks (4) vs. Utah Jazz (5)

  • Game 1: Utah 99, Dallas 93
  • Game 2: Dallas 110, Utah 104
  • Game 3: Dallas 126, Utah 118
  • Game 4: Utah 100, Dallas 99
  • Game 5: Dallas 102, Utah 77
  • Game 6: Dallas 98, Utah 96

> Mavericks win series 4-2

How Many Fouls To Foul Out In NBA?

NBA players are forced to leave the game after six personal fouls, which are made up of both individual and technical fouls, or after two technical fouls.

Disputed foul situations thus far in the 2022 NBA Playoffs:

The shocking 18 fouls were called in the first quarter of the Celtics. Nets playoff-opening was just one of many dubious calls made thus far during the 2022 NBA Playoffs. Until the Timberwolves and Grizzlies racked up 20 fouls in the first quarter later that week, this was the season’s highest first-quarter foul total.

Not to mention that Draymond Green was dismissed from the Golden State game last week after committing a flagrant foul in Game 1 of their second-round series with the Grizzlies.

On Saturday, May 7, during Milwaukee’s Game, 3 showdowns against Boston, Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer had to be held by his teammates when he objected to a no-call.

During the Suns vs. Mavericks game on Sunday, only 23 minutes into his performance, Chris Paul received six fouls. His 17-year career’s quickest foul-out was this one, which caused quite a stir.

Given that the NBA Finals don’t start until June 2 until after the playoffs are concluded, we can only speculate about what lies ahead.

How Many Fouls To Foul Out In NBA?

FAQs: How Does NBA Play In Tournament Work

When is the 2023 Play-In Tournament?

The Play-In Tournament will start on April 10 and end on April 14 (both days inclusive). Each team in each conference with the seventh- and eighth-highest winning percentages will get two chances to win one game and secure a postseason position.

To qualify for the playoffs, the clubs in each conference with the ninth- and tenth-highest winning percentages must win two straight games.

When is the 2023 Play-In Tournament?

What happened to the Play-In Tournament champions?

Each conference’s 7th and 8th seeds will go to the Play-In tournament winners. The NBA Playoffs will start with the customary 16-team, best-of-seven series format following the Play-In Tournament.

What Time Do The Playoffs Begin?

The NBA Playoffs will begin on April 15, 2023, on a Saturday.

What number of teams may clinch a playoff spot?

Sixteen clubs have a chance of securing a postseason spot and a playoff seed.

The NBA has how many conferences and teams?

There are 30 teams in the NBA, divided into two conferences;

  • There are 15 teams in each of the three divisions of the Western Conference: Northwest, Pacific, and Southwest.
  • The Atlantic, Southeast, and Central divisions of the Eastern Conference each have three clubs leading them.

What kind of structure do the NBA Playoffs have?

Seeds 7–10 will compete in the play-in tournament according to the conference. One game will be played between seeds 7 and 8. The victor advances to the postseason. For the last playoff spot, the loser faces the victor of the match between Seeds 9 and 10.

There are four rounds in the playoffs.

All rounds’ matches are best 4 out of 7 series:

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The NBA has a complex set of rules governing how games are played. These NBA play-in tournament rules are designed to keep the game fair and fun for everyone involved. If you’re new to the game, understanding how everything works can be a little confusing. However, it’s not that difficult once you get the hang of it. Just remember to have fun and enjoy the game!

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