For six months, the 30 teams that make up the National Basketball Association (NBA) do battle to see who will top each division and who will go on to finish inside the top six of the Eastern and Western Conferences.
Those 12 teams progress automatically to the playoffs, which act as the season finale for the NBA each term. The teams that finish seventh to twelfth in either division then have a second chance to reach the bracket stage via the play-in round, so there is plenty to play for from the moment the season tips off until the buzzer goes in the final game.
If you are new to basketball or want to enjoy the playoffs when they come around, here’s a basic guide to how the NBA playoffs are determined.
Who Makes It to the NBA Playoffs?
Each year, the best eight teams from the east and the best eight from the west go on to contest the NBA playoffs.
This sweet sixteen is determined by their win-loss record in the regular season – the teams with the most wins go on to form the brackets.
The half-dozen with the most wins in the Eastern Conference, and the same in the West, go automatically through to the playoffs – they can begin to dream of reaching the NBA Championship game.
The play-in tournament determines who will meet them there.
What is the NBA Play-In Tournament?
Used for the first time in the competition’s history in 2021, the NBA play-in tournament will feature a mini-series of matches to see who takes on the big guns in the playoffs.
In each conference, the team that finishes seventh plays the eighth-place side – the winner goes straight through.
Ninth plays tenth too, and the winner of that game goes on to play the loser of the first play-in outing to see who takes the second available playoff spot.
What are the Seedings in the NBA Playoffs?
We talk a lot about seeding in the gardening section of this site, but in NBA the word means something completely different!
Based upon their regular season performance, each team in the playoffs is given a seeding – the team that finishes top of their conference is the top seed, second places gets the number two seeding, and so on.
This seeding is important because, in theory at least, the higher your number, the ‘easier’ your route through. For example, the number one seed plays the number eight in the first round of the brackets, which should be a more agreeable assignment, and the higher-ranked team gets home court advantage too.
Who Is in the NBA Playoffs 2021?
With the regular season still in full flow, we await final confirmation of who will make up the playoff places.
However, we know that four teams are guaranteed their places – Brooklyn Nets, Philadelphia 76ers, Utah Jazz and the Phoenix Suns.
What is interesting is that the outright winner NBA betting on bet365 only partially reflects that – the Nets are the sportsbook favorites. However, it’s the two Los Angeles franchises in the Lakers and the Clippers that are next best in the market, despite not having booked their spots in the playoffs as yet.
The Milwaukee Bucks, who were among the pre-season favorites, are a couple of wins away from booking their place in the postseason shake-up, as are the impressive Denver Nuggets.
The 2021 NBA playoffs are shaping up nicely, so can anyone upset the reigning champions the LA Lakers?