The NBA Play-In tournament was first introduced at the end of the shortened 2019-20 season while teams were competing in the Orlando bubble. The idea was that this new format would give more teams an opportunity to reach the postseason even if they did not currently hold a top 8 seed within their conference.
The Play-In tournament was still in use during the 2020-21 season but the format changed slightly. While some basketball analysts seemed to have trouble explaining the rules, it's quite simple:
- The 7th and 8th seed in each conference play each other once. The winner takes the 7th seed.
- The 9th and 10th seed in each conference play each other once. The winner plays the loser of the 7th/8th seed game to determine who takes the 8th seed.
Note: The 7th and 8th seeds only need to win one out of two games to retain a spot in the playoffs. The 9th and 10th seeds need to win two games in a row in order to reach the playoffs. The rest of the postseason proceeds as normal.
Below are the results from the 2020-21 Play-In tournament:
- Boston Celtics defeated the Washington Wizards to take the 7th seed in the East
- Washington Wizards defeated the Indiana Pacers to take the 8th seed in the East
- Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Golden State Warriors to take the 7th seed in the West
- Memphis Grizzlies defeated the Golden State Warriors to take the 8th seed in the West
The 2021-22 NBA season begins on 10/19/21 and ends on 4/10/22, at which point the Play-In tournament will begin to determine the 7th and 8th seeds in the playoffs.