Each spring, the NBA's top teams compete for league supremacy in the NBA Playoffs.

Eight teams in each conference qualify for the First Round of the NBA Playoffs. The division winner with the best record in each conference is ranked No. 1, the other division winner is ranked No. 2 and the remaining six teams are ranked Nos. 3-8 according to their win-loss records.

In the Western Conference, for example, this means that even if the teams with the top two records are from the Midwest Division, the Pacific Division winner still will rank second.

The team with the better regular-season record has home-court advantage in each round of the Playoffs.

In the event that two teams are tied in the standings, a series of tiebreakers is applied to determine playoff position. If one tiebreaker still yields a tie, the next tiebreaker is used and so on, until the higher seeding is determined.

Tim Duncan
Tim Duncan and the Spurs won the 2003 NBA title.
Kent Horner/NBAE/Getty Images

The tiebreakers include:
1. Better record in head-to-head games.
2. Higher winning percentage in conference games.
3. Higher winning percentage within division (if teams are in the same division).
4. Higher winning percentage against playoff teams in own conference.
5. Higher winning percentage against playoff teams in opposite conference.
6. Higher point differential between points scored and points allowed.

The First Round is a best-of-seven series, so the team that wins four games wins the series. The opening round has a 2-2-1-1-1 format, meaning the first two games and the fifth and seventh games (if necessary) are played on the home court of the team with the better regular-season record, and the third and fourth games and the sixth game (if necessary) are played on the other team's court.

The four teams in each conference that win their respective First Round series proceed to the best-of-seven Conference Semifinals and the two winning teams in each conference advance to the Conference Finals. Both the Conference Semifinals and Conference Finals are best-of-seven series with a 2-2-1-1-1 format.

The last stage is the NBA Finals, which matches the top Eastern Conference team against the best squad in the West. It is a best-of-seven series with a 2-3-2 format.

In the 1994 NBA Playoffs, the Denver Nuggets made history as the first-ever eighth seed to beat a number-one seed with their First Round defeat of the Seattle SuperSonics. What made this even more remarkable was that the Nuggets started the series down two games to none. Denver finished the series with a Game Five win in Seattle. Nuggets centre Dikembe Mutombo blocked an NBA record 31 shots in the five-game series. (Note: Prior to 2003, the First Round was a best-of-five series.)

The feat was repeated in the 1999 NBA Playoffs as the eighth-seeded New York Knicks defeated the first-place Miami Heat in a First Round series. Guard Allan Houston made a last second off-balance jump shot in Game Five to give New York the series win. The Knicks used this momentum to later defeat the Atlanta Hawks and Indiana Pacers, but their playoff run ended in the NBA Finals, where they lost to the San Antonio Spurs.

The NBA Playoffs 2004 begin on Saturday, April 17.