How does the NBA Play-in 2021 work: rules, format, brackets and games

The first ever NBA Play-In Tournament is just days away. With the end of the regular season approaching we have a look at the structure of the Tournament.

How does the NBA Play-in 2021 work: rules, format, brackets and games
Hannah Foslien AFP

Just two days remain in the 2020/2021 NBA regular season, and the focus shifts from the final stretch of the 72 game slate to the four day Play-In Tournament making its much anticipated debut on the 18th of May.

Big names expected in NBA's first Play-In Tournament

Some of the biggest names in the game look set to take part in the inaugural tournament. Steph Curry, LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russel Westbrook will be fighting for a right to enter the first round of the NBA Playoffs.

While some are excited to see what comes of this experimental tournament, others aren’t too thrilled with the prospect of having to play an extra few games for a chance to get in to the post season.

LeBron was openly critical of the new system claiming “Whoever came up with this should be fired.” While Luke Doncic stressed “I don’t understand the idea of the play-in. You play 72 games to get to the playoffs, then maybe you lose two in a row and you’re out of the playoffs. I don’t see the point of that.”

How it works

There will be a total of six games, three in each conference between the No. 7 through No. 10 teams in the East and the West.

The first “round” or first two games will be played between the seventh and eighth placed teams and the other matchup will feature the No. 9 and No. 10 placed teams.

The winner of the 7/8 game will earn the seventh seed going into the playoffs, and the loser will play the winner of the 9/10 matchup for the 8th and final seed of the playoffs.

The 7th seed will wind up playing the No. 2 seed in the first round of the playoffs, while the No. 8 seed will face off with the top team in the each respective conference.

Since there will be no NBA Bubble this year, the Play-In venues of each game will be determined by the teams with the highest win percentage.

How it's shaping up

The stage looks set in the Eastern Conference with just two days remaining in the regular season. The Celtics, Hornets, Wizards and Pacers are already locked in to the Play-In Tournament. The winner of the Washington vs Charlotte game tomorrow afternoon will determine who finishes in 7th and 8th place.

The same can almost be said about the West. The Lakers could jump out of the Play-In Zone with a win and a Trail Blazers loss tomorrow. The other three teams, the Warriors, Grizzlies, and Spurs are set for in the Play-In and the Golden State vs Memphis game will determine who finishes seventh and who finish eighth after the regular season.