NBA Play-In Tournament 2021: Dates, rules and projections

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NBA Play-In Tournament 2021: Dates, rules and projections originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

 With the 2020-21 NBA regular season coming to an end this weekend, it’s time for fans to look ahead to the league’s play-in tournament that will see a field of eight teams cut in half before the Eastern and Western conference playoffs begin on May 22.

While some players like Luka Dončić and LeBron James don’t agree with the idea, others like Steph Curry enjoy the opportunity the play-in brings to teams. 

Here is everything you need to know to familiarize with the upcoming Play-In Tournament. 

What is the NBA Play-In Tournament?

The NBA Play-In Tournament is the league's new format to determine the eight playoff teams from each conference. 

The system allows the 10 top teams in the Eastern and Western Conference standings to play their chances for a spot in the playoffs, making the end of the regular season more exciting. 

The league had already tested a version of the play-in format last summer with the 2020 NBA restart in the Orlando bubble. At the time, the Portland Trail Blazers played the Memphis Grizzlies to earn a berth in the Western Conference playoffs. 

Last November the NBA board of governors unanimously approved to introduce the Play-In Tournament on an-year basis.

When is the NBA Play-In Tournament?

The Play-In Tournament will begin Tuesday, May 18, two days after the end of the regular season on May 16.

The last game of the tournament will be May 21, with the first round of the NBA playoffs tipping off May 22. 

How can I watch the NBA Play-In Tournament?

The Play-In Tournament will air on ESPN and TNT. Here is the schedule for the upcoming week:

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The Eastern Conference matchups are set with the No. 7 Celtics versus the No. 8 Wizards, and the No. 9 Pacers versus the No. 10 Hornets:

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The Western Conference matchups are set as well with the No. 7 Lakers versus the No. 8 Warriors, and the No. 9 Grizzlies versus the No. 10 Spurs:

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How will the NBA Play-In Tournament be structured?

The Play-In Tournament will have six games involving eight teams, split up between the two conferences.

The teams that finish Nos. 1-6 in each conference standings will qualify for the playoffs, while the teams that will finish Nos. 7-10 will take part in the Play-In Tournament. 

The NBA will use winning percentage to determine the standings.

Game 1: The highest-winning percentage team at No. 7 in each conference will host the highest-winning percentage team at No. 8 for the No. 7 seed in the playoffs. The losing team will have a second chance to make the playoffs in Game 3. 

Game 2: The team with the highest winning percentage at No. 9 in each conference will host the team with the highest winning percentage at No. 10. The winner will play for a playoff berth in Game 3, while the losing team will enter the NBA draft lottery.

Game 3: The losing team of No. 7 vs. No. 8 (Game 1) will play the winning team of No. 9 vs. No. 10 (Game 2) for the eighth seed in the playoffs. The losing team will enter the NBA draft lottery.

Where will the NBA Play-In Tournament be held?

With the COVID-19 vaccines continuing rolling out, the NBA has no plans to bring back the bubble. The Play-In Tournament will be held at home arenas, with the highest-winning percentage teams hosting each game. 

Which teams are projected to be in the NBA Play-In Tournament?

The Eastern Conference matchups are set: 

Away

Home

Game time

No. 10 Indiana Pacers

No. 9 Charlotte Hornets

Tuesday, May 18, 6:30 p.m.

No. 8 Washington Wizards

No. 7 Boston Celtics

Tuesday, May 18, 9 p.m.

Here are the Western Conference matchups

Away

Home

Game time

No. 10 San Antonio Spurs

No. 9 Memphis Grizzlies

Wednesday, May 19, 7:30 p.m.

No. 8 Golden State Warriors

No. 7 Los Angeles Lakers

Wednesday, May 19, 10 p.m.