It’s one of the few things from the bubble that has become a permanent part of the NBA schedule in 2021: The play-in tournament.
And in its first non-bubble year, the NBA play-in tournament has given us a top of the marquee showdown: LeBron James and the Lakers vs. Stephen Curry and the Warriors. The winners of four of the past six NBA championships (5-of-6 if you count LeBron in Cleveland in 2016) going head-to-head.
This is the first year is a more traditional season — as much as the compressed 72-game 2021 NBA season can be called traditional — that the play-in tournament is in place to decide the final two seeds. While LeBron, Luka Doncic, and Mark Cuban complained publicly about the play-in, it did exactly what the league had envisioned — it created drama right up to the final day of the regular season and forced teams, including LeBron’s Lakers, to play their stars and not coast during games that previously would have been seen as nearly meaningless. It’s why the play-in is likely here to stay.
How the play in shakes out is the No.7 and No. 8 seed at the end of the regular season has to win just one of two games to advance to the traditional playoffs, while the No. 9 and No. 10 seeds have to win two games to advance.
— NBA (@NBA) May 17, 2021
Here’s how the play-in works: In both conferences, the top six seeds advance straight to the traditional playoffs, with the 7-10 seeds facing the play-in tournament. In the first play-in game, the No. 7 seed hosts the No. 8 seed, with the winner advancing to the playoffs as the No. 7 seed. That same night, the No. 9 team hosts the No. 10 seed, with the loser being eliminated. Then, in the final play-in game showdown, the loser from the 7/8 game hosts the winner of the 9/10 game, the winner of that final game becomes the No. 8 seed, the loser goes home.
From there, the NBA playoffs continue as they always have, with best-of-seven series among the 16 teams.
Here is the 2021 NBA play-in tournament results and schedule (all times are Eastern), with the odds provided by our partner, PointsBet:
NBA Play-In Tournament
Thursday, May 20:
Washington beats Indiana, 142-115
Friday, May 21:
Memphis at Golden State, 9 p.m., ESPN (Golden State -4.5)
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