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The NBA playoffs determine the champion of the National Basketball Association. After the regular season, the action turns to this annual best-of-seven contest. But it’s not just the regular season that leads to the playoffs. There’s also the NBA play-in tournament to consider. Teams that dominate during the regular season don’t need to worry too much. The top six teams from both Eastern and Western Conferences, ranked by their win percentages, earn their direct tickets to the playoffs. However, teams from seventh to tenth have an extra hurdle: the NBA play-in tournament.


The Play-in Tournament

While this tournament is technically separate from the playoffs, its significance cannot be denied. Here’s how it works: The seventh and eighth teams face off. The winner locks in the seventh seed. Meanwhile, the ninth and tenth teams are up against each other. The loser is out, while the winner takes on the loser from the first match. The victor of this game secures the eighth seed.


Brackets and Game Format

Both Eastern and Western Conferences stick to the familiar bracket setup. Every series in the playoffs is a best-of-seven game. The structure is the 2–2–1–1–1 format. So, the team with the home-court edge will host games 1, 2, 5, and 7. Their competitors get to host games 3, 4, and 6. This setup has been the standard since 2014. And once the games begin, the brackets stay as they are. There’s no reseeding, as we might see in other leagues.


Keeping Score in the Playoffs

Scoring during this crucial time is the same as during the regular season. The key difference? Each round extends over two weeks, not just one. This change means more games and an opportunity to accumulate more stats. Success is measured by winning as many categories as possible. Achieving wins in 6 out of 10 categories during each matchup ensures victory. But what if there’s a tie?


Resolving Ties

Ties are rare but not unheard of. In the event of a tie, specific criteria come into play:
  • Head-to-head record between the tied teams.
  • Division record (only if the teams hail from the same division).
  • Conference record.
  • Winning percentages against in-conference playoff teams.
  • Winning percentages against opposing conference playoff teams.
  • Overall point differential.
For ties involving three or more teams, division leaders always get preference. If any team gets knocked out of a tiebreaker, the evaluation reverts to the first criteria for the remaining contenders.

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