How Does NBA Playoffs Work (Everything You Need To Know)

How do NBA playoffs work

4 minutes

Last Updated: May 24, 2024

Scott Kostov

Are you wondering how does NBA playoffs work? Well, you ain’t the only one. The addition of the NBA Play-In tournament really shook up how things work. And for the first time in 20 years, we might see a playoff run without one of the greatest NBA passers LeBron James.

Even though his LA Lakers are 2 wins off the sixth-seeded Phoenix Suns. So what gives? How many teams are in NBA playoffs this 2024 season? Why does the new NBA playoff format include 2 more games and does it affect NBA playoff series length? We break it all down here!

How Does the NBA Playoffs Work

As always, midway through April, the NBA playoffs are bound to start. The 2023/24 is no different except we have the NBA Play-In tournament to play. But besides that, everything is as it’s always been.

Every round of the NBA playoffs is a seven game series, if it comes to that point. These series are played in a 2-2-1-1-1 format where the higher seed holds home-court advantage and hosts Games 1, 2, 5 (if necessary) and 7 (if necessary).

Previously we used to have the 2-3-2 format, but that has been changed since 2014 to allow for more parity. As always, the teams with the top 4 records in the conference receive home-court advantage, regardless if they won their division or not.

The top 8 teams from both conferences make the playoff bracket, with the top seeds facing off against the 8th seed. This criterion trickles down, as the second seed faces off with the seventh seed in a first-round matchup.

Unlike the NHL and NFL playoffs, there is no reseeding after each round of the NBA playoffs. The playoff bracket is fixed, with home-court advantage being determined based on the regular season win percentage.

All of the vets that were waived after the February trade deadline have already been signed on veteran minimum contracts and all rosters are locked through the playoffs.

How Many Games Are in an NBA Season?

Each team plays 82 regular-season games. Teams that participate in the Play-In tournament might play one or two more games, but the outcome won’t affect their regular season or playoff record. That’s because the NBA Play-In tournament is considered a separate entity.

This 2024 season, we might see two members of the 50 40 90 club in Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant, play an 83 and 84 game of the season to have a shot at the NBA playoffs. 

When Does The NBA Regular Season End?

The final day of the 2023/24 NBA regular season is Sunday, April 14. The teams that won’t participate in the NBA Play In tournament will get a week off. Meanwhile, the teams that do, will only get 2 days of rest before the double round-robin begins.

When Does the 2024 NBA Play-In Tournament Start?

The play-in tournament starts two days after the end of the regular season, running from April 16-19. These games don’t count towards regular season statistics, pretty much all of the awards handed out won’t take these performances into consideration.

How Many Teams Are in NBA Playoffs

A total of 16 teams make the NBA playoffs. This bracket is composed of the top eight teams from both conferences. The top six seeds in each conference automatically qualify for the playoffs, while the play-in tournament determines the final two spots.

When Do the 2024 NBA Playoffs Start?

The first round of the NBA playoffs kicks off on Saturday, April 20.

How Does The NBA Play-in Tournament Work?

The NBA Play-In tournament was introduced during the Covid-shortened 2020 NBA season and has been implemented ever since. The way it works is that the seventh-seeded team faces off the eighth-seed team and the ninth-place team plays the 10th-place team.

These matches are a best-of-one series, meaning their entire season is on the line that night. The higher seed always has a home-court advantage in the Play-In tournament, but that doesn’t carry over to the playoffs bracket.

In short, the winner of the 7-8 matchup earns the No. 7 seed in the playoffs. The loser of that matchup then hosts the winner of the 9-10 matchup, for a chance to claim the No. 8 seed in the playoffs.

So, teams that finish the season in seventh or eighth place just need to win one play-in tournament game to clinch a playoff berth. Teams that finish ninth or 10th have to win two games.

Do The NBA Playoffs Reseed

Unlike the NFL playoffs, teams aren’t reseeded after the first round. So the winner of the 1-8 matchup faces the winner of the 4-5 matchup in Round 2, while the winner of the 2-7 matchup faces the winner of the 3-6 matchup.

How Many Games to Win in Playoffs

Since every round of the NBA playoffs is a 7-game series, you need 4 wins to advance to the next stage. Given that all teams must play 3 series (First, Second, Conference Finals) and an NBA Finals, teams must win 16 games to claim the NBA championship. 

It’s important to note that games in the Play-In tournament don’t count toward the team’s postseason record. These games also don’t affect the NBA draft standings, as they are based on the win percentage during the previous regular season.

NBA Playoff Series Length

All NBA playoff series are a best of 7 contests or the first to 4 wins. It wasn’t always like this, but since 2003, every NBA playoff series has been a 7-game series.

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