As the NBA’s 2021-22 regular season draws to a conclusion Sunday, teams near the middle of the standings are battling for postseason seeding with a special focus on the league’s play-in tournament.
Held before the first round of the 2022 NBA playoffs, the play-in tournament adds an exciting wrinkle to the end of the regular season. Teams were already less incentivized to tank games down the stretch because of the flattened lottery odds instituted in 2019. Now that the top 10 teams in the standings will finish the regular season with at least a chance to make the playoffs, more franchises will stay in the mix for longer.
The play-in tournament will be held Tuesday to Friday.
Here’s everything you need to know about the setup this season, including the matchups for the play-in games in the Eastern and Western Conference.
2021-22 NBA play-in tournament
Game 3: Winner Game 2 at Loser Game 1 (Friday on ESPN)
The winner of Game 1 will be the East’s 7-seed. The winner of Game 3 will be the 8-seed and face the Miami Heat in the first round.
The play-in tournament in the Western Conference is set.
Game 3: Winner Game 2 at Loser Game 1 (Friday on TNT)
How does the NBA play-in tournament work?
There will be six total games involving eight teams as part of the play-in tournament, split up between the two conferences.
The teams that finish Nos. 1-6 in each conference will be guaranteed playoff spots, while team Nos. 7-10 in the standings will enter the play-in. Any team that finishes worse than No. 10 will be in the lottery.
Here’s how the games will work:
Game 1: The No. 7 team in the standings by winning percentage will host the No. 8 team, with the winner earning the No. 7 seed in the playoffs. The losing team gets another chance in Game 3.
Game 2: The No. 9 team will host the No. 10 team, with the winner moving on to Game 3. The loser is eliminated and enters the NBA draft lottery.
Game 3: The loser of the No. 7 vs. No. 8 matchup will host the winner of the No. 9 vs. No. 10 matchup, with the victor grabbing the No. 8 seed in the postseason. The loser of Game 3 also enters the lottery.
This means that the teams with the seventh-highest and eighth-highest winning percentages will have two opportunities to win one game to earn a playoff spot, while the teams with the ninth-highest and 10th-highest winning percentages need to win two straight games to advance.
What’s next after the play-in?
Once the play-in winners, seeded No. 7 and No. 8 from each conference, advance, the 2022 NBA playoffs will begin Saturday. Game 1 of the NBA Finals is June 2.