How NBA Play-In Tournament Works and All You Need to Know About It

Following in the footsteps of the NCAA and their March Madness play-in tournament (First Four), the NBA introduced their own play-in tournament last season.

With that in mind, we decided to take a closer look at this tournament and try to answer a common question: “How does the NBA play-in work?”.

The Format and the Participants of the NBA Play-In Tournament

The first NBA play-in tournament was played in the 2020-2021 NBA season and it’s safe to say that it was a success. We also learned all about it then and the format will remain the same for this season as well.

The most important thing to know about the play-in tournament is that it determines the last two playoff participants in both the Eastern and the Western Conference. Four teams seeded from 7th to 10th in each conference will play each other to decide who gets the 7th and 8th seed in the upcoming playoffs.

How Does the NBA Play-In Work?

The NBA play-in tournament starts with two elimination games in each conference. Firstly, the seventh seed will host the eight seed and the winner of this game will secure the seventh seed in the playoffs.

Then, the ninth seed will host the tenth seed – the winner gets to play the loser of the first game between the 7th and 8th seed, while the loser gets eliminated.

Finally, the loser of the game between the 7th and 8th seed will host the winner of the game between the 9th and 10th seed and the winner of this game will be the eighth seed in the playoffs.

All in all, the NBA play-in tournament features six games in total and we’ve seen some exciting duels last season. For the 2021-2022 NBA season, we also expect to see some interesting games:

Eastern Conference Play-In Tournament 2022

No. 8 Cleveland Cavaliers @ No. 7 Brooklyn Nets

No.10 Charlotte Hornets @ No. 9 Atlanta Hawks

Western Conference Play-In Tournament 2022

No. 8 Los Angeles Clippers @ No. 7 Minnesota Timberwolves

No.10 San Antonio Spurs @ No. 9 New Orleans Hornets

NBA Play-In Tournament Background

While the idea for a play-in tournament in the NBA is not exactly new, it was implemented for the first time last season. The reasons for the tournament were clear – try to reduce the tanking in the NBA by giving more teams a chance to make the playoffs.

The play-in tournament also gives a second chance to some good teams who perhaps struggled with injuries during the regulars season, which would, in theory, provide us with some more interesting matchups in the first round of the NBA playoffs.

Additionally, the single-game elimination format of the play-in tournament guarantees excitement with the high stakes on the line for each team.

Where to Watch NBA Play-In Tournament?

Just like other NBA games, whether it’s regular season or the playoffs, there are multiple ways you can watch the play-in tournament games, including specific TV broadcasts and streams.

If you want to learn in more detail about the possible ways watch the NBA play-tournament, we have done a detailed overview of ways to watch and stream the NBA play-in tournament.

Best Odds for NBA Play-In Tournament

If you want to place a bet on some of the NBA play-in tournament games, you can check our NBA odds tracker and you’ll be able to find the best odds from some of the top bookies in the US.

We make sure to regularly update the odds tracker to include the best and latest odds for NBA games, which is also true for the upcoming play-in tournament and playoffs.