How Do the NBA Playoffs Work?

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Have you recently started to watch NBA games and dying to know how the NBA Playoffs work? Many persons may find the NBA playoff seven-game series in different rounds quite confusing. This process of choosing the NBA champion is different from other sports, so the confusion is understandable.

We understand that as you cheer for your favorite team throughout the playoffs, it is important for you to understand how the eventual champion will be chosen. No one wants to be cheering their hearts out with no knowledge of the journey’s ultimate culmination. We would like you to enjoy the game through understanding.

Today we are going to be providing you with an in-depth explanation of the NBA playoff rounds and series. After this article, you will understand how the participating teams are seeded and how the series winners are decided.

How Many Teams are in the NBA PlayoffsHow Many Teams are in the NBA Playoffs?

Currently, the NBA Playoffs consist of 16 teams. The NBA is divided into two conferences, the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference. Eight teams are chosen from both conferences to complete the 16 teams in the playoffs.

The eight teams from each conference are the top eight teams in each conference at the end of the regular season. This was not always the case. The NBA was established in 1949. The 1949-1950 transitional tournament had three conferences and not two. This season saw 12 teams qualifying for the playoffs. Four teams from each division played in the playoffs.

In the 1953-66 seasons, only six teams participated in the NBA playoffs.  In the 1966-1967 season, eight teams played in the NBA playoffs. The final change made to the NBA playoffs in terms of the number of teams was in 1984. In 1984 the NBA expanded its playoff slots to 16.

How Many Rounds are in the NBA PlayoffsHow Many Rounds are in the NBA Playoffs?

Today’s NBA playoffs is, without a doubt, one of the most exciting tournaments worldwide. The NBA puts talent, expectations, mystery, skill, limitless possibilities, and sheer nail-biting action in one place when the playoffs roll around each year. The excitement sometimes starts before the playoffs itself. Sometimes the seeding comes down to the last few games of the season, and the playoff atmosphere starts as early as that time. 

The NBA Playoffs has four rounds played across each conference. 

The first round features the higher-seeded teams (1-4) facing off against the lower-seeded teams (5-8). This round can be one of the most exciting rounds, especially if there is a possibility of an upset. Whenever one of the lower-seeded teams builds up enough momentum through the second half of the season, that could make fans believe the upset is a possibility, the excitement is even bigger. There are many cases where this has happened in the past. 

This most recently occurred in the 2017-18 playoffs when the number 5 and 6 seeds defeated the number 4 and number 3 seeds, respectively. The 6th seeded New Orleans Pelicans, lead by Anthony Davis swept Damian Lillard’s Portland Trailblazers off the court in four games. In the other matchup, the deep Utah Jazz behind rookie Donavan Mitchel and the Stifel Tower, Rudy Gobert, demolished the Russell Westbrook lead Oklahoma City Thunders four games to two.

The Western conference has long since been viewed to be much stronger than the Eastern Conference, so it usually carries a lot more attention than the Eastern conference in the first round. Matchups in the West are always against powerhouses regardless of the seedings.
This year we could have the L.A. Lakers and Clippers facing off against a strong core of youngsters from either the Pelicans (Zion, Ball, Ingram), Kings (Hield, Fox, Barnes), Mavericks (Doncic, Porzingas, Kleber), or the Grizzlies (Morant, Jackson*2, Anderson).

The next round of the playoffs is the conference semi-finals, where the top four teams in each conference go up against each other in four best of seven series. Each side fights tooth and nail to earn a spot in the conference finals.

The conference finals are one of the most contested rounds of sports in the world. Sometimes the best two teams in the league will play in the conference finals if one conference is stronger than the next. This is where the four heaviest hitters in the league face-off, the two best teams of each conference go head to head for an opportunity to play in the NBA finals. They play in a best of seven series, just like all the other rounds of the playoffs.

The final round of the NBA playoffs is where it all comes full circle. The round for all the marbles. The series where all the madness makes sense. The NBA finals have the best two teams from each conference duking it out in an attempt to lift The Larry O’Brien NBA Championship Trophy at the end.

How Do NBA Team Qualify for the PlayoffsHow Do NBA Team Qualify for the Playoffs?

To qualify for the NBA playoffs, a team needs to be in the top eight in its respective conference at the end of the regular season. Are you are wondering “How many games does a NBA team have to win to be in the playoffs?” There is no set number as the win and loss records of each team differs each year. Even though sixteen teams make the NBA playoffs, a team does not have to be in the top 16 teams at the end of the regular season in order to qualify. 

The teams are seeded 1 through 8 based on their conferences. This means that if a team is ranked 18th in the entire NBA but ranked 8th in its conference, it will still make it into the playoffs. Throughout the NBA regular season, some teams play others in their conference three or four times. These games are useful if there are any teams with similar records at the end of the regular season. 

In some past seasons, the playoff races were so tight that the last games on some team’s schedule were their most important games. These games are usually exciting to watch as they are normally hard-fought with playoff intensity.

How are the NBA Playoffs SeededHow are the NBA Playoffs Seeded?

There are a few different factors that come into play when discussing the seeding of the NBA playoff. The most crucial factor is the record of wins and losses accumulated by each team throughout the regular season. 

As each conference admits eight players into the playoffs, it is essential that teams try to have one of the eight best records in their conference by winning as many games as possible. This factor is quite straightforward. The team with the highest win total is placed at the top of the seeding chart. The next team is the second-best and so on. 

You may be wondering, what would happen if multiple teams in the same conference end the season with the same record. This happens very often, and the NBA has a system in place to cope with situations like these. The NBA uses what it calls tiebreakers to determine seeding if the regular season records are similar. 

There are a series of tiebreakers for two teams and three team tiebreakers. They are listed below.

Two-Team Tiebreaker:

1. Better record in head-to-head games
2. Division winner
3. Higher winning percentage within division
4. Higher winning percentage in conference games
5. Higher winning percentage against playoff teams in own conference
6. Higher winning percentage against playoff teams in the opposite conference
7. The higher point differential between points scored and points allowed 

Three-Team Tiebreaker:

1. Division winner
2. The best head-to-head winning percentage among all teams tied
3. Highest winning percentage within division
4. Highest winning percentage in conference games
5. Highest winning percentage against playoff teams in own conference
6. The highest point differential between points scored and points allowed 

How Does Home Court Advantage Work in the NBA PlayoffsHow Does Home Court Advantage Work in the NBA Playoffs?

NBA home court advantage plays a significant role in the success of NBA playoff teams. Home court advantage means that the team with this advantage will be able to play most of the playoff series at home. The fan base of any organization can be “the sixth man” that helps it to victory. Home court advantage is earned by having a better regular-season record than your opponents. 

When Do the NBA Playoffs Typically StartWhen Do the NBA Playoffs Typically Start?

After the conclusion of the regular season and all sixteen teams are seeded, the NBA playoffs is clear to start. After a few days of rest at the beginning of April, the sixteen teams are called into action in the second or third week of April. 

The NBA playoffs usually run until mid-June. The 2020 NBA playoffs will be starting much later due to the novel Corona virus. The virus caused the season to be postponed for over four months. The 2020 NBA playoffs will begin on August 17 and will run into October.

Wrapping Things Up: How Do the NBA Playoffs Work?

The NBA playoffs is the tournament at the end of the regular season that sees the top eight teams in each conference facing off against each other. The conference matchups are divided into four rounds that are all best of seven series. 

The conference winners match up in a final seven-game series in an attempt to be called champions in the end. I hope this year’s finals will be as exciting as any before.

We also answer other frequently answered questions on basketball here.

More interesting basketball FAQ articles here:

> Home Court Advantage in the NBA Playoffs: Does it Matter?

> How do NBA Players Get Paid?

> How Much are Courtside Seats for an NBA Game?

Hoops Addict
Hoops Addict

Hoops Addict was created to help basketball fans of all ages learn more about the sport and find the best basketball gear to improve their ability to hoop. He has been a huge basketball fan for decades, watching thousands of basketball games through the years to learn the ins and outs of the game.

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