The NBA playoffs are where the highest level of basketball is played. It is a postseason tournament that practically determines who the next champion is. If you have questions about the format of the NBA playoffs, including the NBA playoff home away format, this article aims to answer and explain the nuances surrounding this arrangement.
Interestingly enough, the Covid-19 pandemic gave birth to the current format of NBA playoffs, making it all the more exciting. It involves a play-in tournament between both conferences’ seventh to tenth seeds. Since the inception of this format in the 2019-20 season, we have seen some of the best playoff performances in the modern era.
How Do the NBA Playoffs Work?
The NBA playoffs are comprised of 16 teams– eight each from the Western and Eastern conferences. The seedings are determined through the 82 regular-season games. Up until the 2018-19 season, the eight teams with the best records in the East and West advance directly to the playoffs. But since the inception of the lay-in tournament, things can get a little spicier for the lower seeds.
Here’s how it works. Instead of eight teams directly going to the playoffs, the new format has six. The seventh and eighth-seeded teams, plus the ninth and tenth seeds, go to a play-in tournament. No. 7 and No. 8 will play, and the winner will officially be the seventh seed. The winner of the match between No. 9 and No. 10 will face the loser of the No. 7-No. 8 matchup. The winner will be declared the 8th seed.
After all eight seeds are determined, the playoffs go about as usual. It will be 1 vs. 8, 2 vs. 7, 3 vs. 6, and 4 vs. 5. The highest seeds always hold the homecourt advantage according to current rules. All rounds will be best of 7 and are played in the 2-2-1-1-1 format. That means the team with the homecourt advantage plays games 1, 2, 5, and 7 on their turf. Once the playoff starts, the teams won’t be reseeded.
The last two teams on each conference will go on to play in the NBA Conference Finals. The two winners of the Conference Finals fight for the NBA championship in seven games.
Since the playoff seedings are based on regular-season records, what happens if two or more teams end up having the same win-loss standings? The first tiebreaker is their head-to-head series or the season series. For example, if the Knicks and Hawks end up having the same record, the Knicks, having beaten the Hawks three times in four regular-season meetings, will secure the seed.
Teams may still end up tied with their season series standings. In this case, the seed is secured by the division champions. If it’s still not determined, the third tiebreaker is the record between their division opponents.
How Does the NBA Playoff Home Away Format Work?
The NBA playoff home-away format uses the 2-2-1-1-1 format in a best of seven series. The team with the better regular-season record and thus holds the homecourt advantage will host Games 1, 2, 5, and 7. The opponents host Games 3, 4, and 6.
The NBA playoff home away format has been used exclusively in all series since 2013. Before that, the NBA Finals is played in a 2-3-2 format, which means the team holding a homecourt advantage hosts the first two games and the last two games if needed. AFTER ALL TEAM OWNERS UNANIMOUSLY VOTED FOR IT, the NBA reverted back to the home-away format in the NBA Finals.
The 2-3-2 format in the NBA Finals was instituted back in 1985 to ease the amount of cross-country travel. The NBA Finals often involved two teams on the East and West coasts (such as the Celtics and Lakers), and the constant travel could potentially wear out teams. The 2-3-2 format was also more practical in terms of costs and accommodation. However, the league went back to the home-away format for good because of the obvious disadvantages.
When Does the NBA Playoffs Start?
Under normal circumstances, the NBA playoffs start in mid-April after all teams have played 82 games. This season, the play-in tournament starts on April 12, and the first round commences four days later, on April 16. The whole NBA playoff schedule falls from April 16 until June 19, 2022, that is, if all series, including the Finals, go to seven games.
Which NBA Teams are in the Playoffs?
If the NBA playoffs start right now, the first six seeds in the West are Golden State, Phoenix, Utah, Memphis, Los Angeles Clippers, and Denver. That puts the Lakers, Mavericks, Timberwolves, and Spurs in the play-in tournament. The first six seeds in the East are Brooklyn, Chicago, Milwaukee, Miami, Cleveland, and Philadelphia. The Wizards, Hornets, Celtics, and the Hawks are the 7-10 teams.
Of course, there are still a lot of games to be played. Teams may engage in trades before the deadline, and players may get bought out, paving the way for them to sign for other teams.
Exciting things seem to happen every year in the NBA playoffs. For instance, the Hawks advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals last year despite only being the fifth seed. The Suns, West’s No. 2 seed, was the only top two seed who qualified for the Conference Finals. The Clippers were seeded fourth in the West, and Milwaukee was No. 3 in the East. Therefore, with so much parity in the league, a top-two seed is not a guarantee of victory.
Here are more tidbits about the NBA playoffs:
- The Los Angeles Lakers have the most playoff appearances by any team in the NBA with 61. Boston is second (51), followed by Boston, Philly, New York, and Atlanta.
- The Sixers have the record for most consecutive playoff appearances. Philly saw the postseason 22 straight times from 49-50 until 70-71.
- Among the teams today, the Toronto Raptors have the least playoff appearances with 5. Interestingly, they won a championship in 2019, which happens to be the last year they made the postseason.
- The Lakers won a total of 458 playoff games, the most in NBA history. The Pelicans’ 49 wins are the lowest.
- The 1994-94 Houston Rockets were the lowest-seeded team that won the NBA Finals. The Rockets finished the regular season with a 47-35 record and were seeded sixth.
- The 1999 New York Knicks was the only eighth seed that went to the NBA Finals. Unfortunately, they lost to the San Antonio Spurs, 4 games to 1.
Changing the Seeding Rules
The NBA’s seeding rules in the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons sparked controversy and were later changed before the 2006-07 season.
In 2004, the NBA reorganized conferences by implementing three divisions in each conference. Before 2004, there were only two. The NBA has a ruling that the first two seeds were reserved for division champions, making sure that the top two teams of the conference won’t face each other until the conference finals.
Even when the NBA expanded to three divisions each, the rule stayed the same: All three division champions were awarded the first three seeds. However, there was a problem, magnified especially in the 2006 playoffs. The Spurs and the Mavericks are the top two West teams record-wise, but they are both in the Southwest Division. The Spurs ended up as the top seed while the Mavs became the fourth seed, which resulted in a semifinals matchup between the two Texas teams.
The NBA subsequently changed this ruling to ensure that the top two teams will be facing in the Conference Finals instead of the earlier rounds. Thus, the seedings are now entirely based on the regular season record rather than division championships. If the 2006 playoffs were seeded using the current rules, the Mavericks would have secured the No. 2 seed and won’t have to face the Spurs until the NBA conference finals.
Wrapping Things Up: How Does the NBA Playoff Home Away Format Work?
The NBA has tried two different formats in the NBA Finals, but has stuck with the home-away format for good since 2014. The NBA playoff home away format is now featured in all seven-game series in the postseason.
Before knowing how the format works, let’s talk about how the seeding works. The current format involves a play-in tournament, where the 7th to 10th teams in each conference compete for the seventh and eighth seeds. After determining the last two teams, the playoffs begin as usual: 1 vs. 8, 2 vs. 7, 3 vs. 6, and 4 vs. 5. The winners will then fight on in the later rounds until the top team for each conference match up in the NBA Finals.
How does the NBA playoff home away format work? It’s actually really simple. The team with the homecourt advantage hosts Games 1 and 2, plus Games 5 and 7 if needed. The other team hosts Games 2 and 4 plus 6 if needed. Before, the NBA Finals featured the 2-3-2 format but was later scratched permanently in 2014 due to a unanimous vote by team owners.
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