NBA play-in games: What you need to know about new NBA playoff format

The NBA postseason is here. 

The playoffs are not just yet.

It’s a distinction with a difference.

The teams participating in the play-in games are not considered playoff teams. Only the teams who fill the No. 7 and 8 seeds in both conferences after the play-in games will be able say they made the playoffs.

The league implemented the play-in game to give more teams a chance to make the playoffs, create late-season excitement, make more games meaningful and curb tanking.

Four teams from the Eastern Conference (Boston, Washington, Indiana, Charlotte) and four teams from the Western Conference (Los Angeles Lakers, Golden State, Memphis, San Antonio) will participate in the play-in game format.

The Wizards needed an unexpected 17-6 finish to the season to make the play-in scenario, and the Lakers couldn’t avoid it.

Russell Westbrook, Bradley Beal and the Wizards will face the Celtics in the first play-in game on Tuesday. (Photo: Geoff Burke, USA TODAY Sports)

How the play-in game works

The seventh- and eighth-place teams in each conference play each other and the winner earns the No. 7 seed. The loser of that game plays the winner of the 9-10 game. The winner of that game becomes the No. 8 seed. To give the teams that had a better record during the regular season an advantage, teams 7-8 need to win just one play-in game to advance and teams 9-10 need to win two games.

Play-in game schedule, including times, TV info, odds

The play-in games take place Tuesday-Friday with the 16-team, best-of-7 playoffs beginning Saturday.

All times Eastern


Eastern Conference

Tenth-place Charlotte (plus-3) vs. ninth-place Indiana, 6:30 p.m., TNT

Eighth-place Washington (+1½) vs. seventh-place Boston, 9 p.m., TNT


Western Conference

Tenth-place San Antonio (+ 3½) vs. ninth-place Memphis, 7:30 p.m., ESPN

Eighth-place Golden State (+4½) vs. Los Angeles Lakers, 10 p.m., ESPN


Eastern Conference

Ninth-10th winner vs. 7-8 loser, 8 p.m., TNT


Western Conference

Ninth-10th winner vs. 7-8 loser, start time TBD, ESPN

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