The NBA has adopted a new system of deciding the 7th and 8th seeds known as the play in tournament; how does it work?
The NBA’s decision to ultimately indulge in the play-in format came after the flow of the 2019-20 NBA season was disrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the NBA’s subsequent suspension of play. In an effort to drive up interest for the seedings games in the Bubble and the 2020 Playoffs, Adam Silver decided to introduce a format similar to the play-in tournament.
The way it worked in the Bubble last year was that if the 9th seed was 4 games or less back from the 8th seed, the two teams would duel it out in a mini-series that could go up to 2 games. The 8th seed would only have to win one of the two games while the 9th seed would have to win two in a row against the 8th seeded team.
The Portland TrailBlazers, led by heroics from Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum bested the Grizzlies in the first game in this best of two to claim the 8th seed and faced off against the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round.
However, with a full, uninterrupted 72 game season, the play-in tournament is in full effect this time around, much to LeBron James’s dismay.
How does the NBA play in tournament work?
- Teams in each conference seeded from 1-6 will automatically be considered as Playoff locks. However, teams that have seeds from 7-10 will enter a short tournament the NBA has named, the play-in tournament.
- The 7th and 8th seeded teams in each conference will duke it out. The winner of this game will be granted a spot in the Playoffs as the 7th seed. The loser of this game, will be given a second chance at claiming a spot in the Playoffs.
- This chance comes against the winner of the game between the 9th and 10th seeded game. The winner of this game will then face off against the loser of the 7th-8th seeded game. Whichever team wins this 3rd game, will be granted the 8th seed in the NBA Playoffs for their respective conference.
In the event of a tie between any two teams in terms of their record, whichever team has the better record in their own division will be given the higher seed.
A similar problem is set to arise in the Western Conference as the Portland TrailBlazers, Los Angeles Lakers, and Dallas Mavericks all have near-identical records. Though they are in separate divisions, the team with the better record in their division will claim the higher seed.
As Zach Lowe put it, “The most important game of the regular season is the upcoming game between the Portland TrailBlazers and the Los Angeles Lakers.”