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With just two days left in the 2020-21 regular season, teams across the league are jockeying for postseason seeding from top to bottom in both conferences. With a win on Friday night against the Cavaliers, the Wizards clinched their place in the NBA Play-In Tournament.
Prior to the start of the season, the NBA Board of Governors approved the implementation of the Play-In Tournament to determine the seventh and eighth playoff seeds in each conference. The goal of the Play-In Tournament, which will include teams seeded 7-10 in each conference at the conclusion of the regular season, is to increase competition across every level of the league throughout the season. In its first year, it did just that. Teams have fought until the final weekend to avoid the Play-In (finishing sixth or higher), create an easier path through the Play-In (seeds 7-8) or narrowly avoid the postseason cut line (seeds 9-10).
Following their win on May 14, the Wizards can still fall anywhere from 8-10 in the Play-In Tournament seeding.
Below, we take a closer look at the Play-In Tournament, what teams need to do to qualify and, once they do, how to qualify for the NBA Playoffs.
When does the Play-In Tournament begin?
The Play-In Tournament is set to convene two days after the end of the regular season. The Wizards, as well as the rest of the NBA, will play their final regular season game on Sunday, May 16. After one day off, the Play-In Tournament will begin on Tuesday, May 18 and run through Friday, May 21.
How does a team advance from the Play-In Tournament?
Teams seeded 7-8 will have easier paths to the playoffs than the teams seeded 9-10. Seeds seven and eight will meet in what the NBA is calling the Seven-Eight Game. The winner of that game will advance to the playoffs as the seven-seed. Seeds nine and 10 will face off in the Nine-Ten Game. The loser of the Nine-Ten Game will be eliminated. The loser of the Seven-Eight Game and the winner of the Nine-Ten Game will then play one another to determine the eight-seed in the playoffs.
In other words, teams seeded 7-8 only need to win one game to advance, but can lose once before being eliminated. Teams seeded 9-10 must win twice to advance, but do not have the liberty of losing a game.
With seeds seven and eight determined in each conference, the league will proceed with a traditional 16-team, best-of-seven series structure in the playoffs.
Where will the Play-In games be played?
All Play-In Tournament games will be played at the home court of the higher-seeded team.
When do the NBA Playoffs begin?
The opening games of the NBA Playoffs are scheduled for Saturday, May 22, the day after the conclusion of the Play-In Tournament and will run no later than July 22.
Where do teams currently rank in each conference?
Click HERE for the most up-to-date look at the NBA standings.