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NBA play-in tournament 2022 – Schedule, projections and rules explained


As the NBA’s 2021-22 regular season draws to a conclusion on April 10, teams near the middle of the standings are battling for postseason seeding with a special focus on the league’s play-in tournament.

Held before the first round of the 2022 NBA playoffs, the play-in tournament adds an exciting wrinkle to the end of the regular season. Teams were already less incentivized to tank games down the stretch because of the flattened lottery odds instituted in 2019. Now that the top 10 teams in the standings will finish the regular season with at least a chance to make the playoffs, more franchises will stay in the mix for longer.

The play-in tournament will be held April 12-15.

Here’s everything you need to know about the setup this season.

MORE: Current NBA standings

How the 2022 play-in race is shaping up

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Entering Monday, here’s how the play-in standings look in the East:

5. Chicago Bulls: 45-33, 2.5 games ahead of 7th
6. Toronto Raptors: 45-33, 2.5 GA

7. Cleveland Cavaliers: 43-36, 1.5 games ahead of 8th
8. Atlanta Hawks, 41-37, 1.5 GB
9. Charlotte Hornets: 40-38, 2.5 GB
10. Brooklyn Nets, 40-38, 2.5 GB

All the teams below Brooklyn in the Eastern Conference (Washington, New York, Indiana, Detroit, Orlando) have officially been eliminated from play-in contention. Additionally, Charlotte and Brooklyn have been eliminated from contention for sixth place, meaning the Hornets and Nets will be in the play-in round. The Cavs and Hawks can get up to sixth and avoid the play-in round.

Here’s how the play-in games would look if the season ended today:

The NBA schedule resumes on Tuesday. Here are the games with the potential to impact the play-in standings:

  • Cavaliers at Magic, 7 p.m. ET

  • Rockets at Nets, 7:30 p.m. ET

  • Hornets at Heat, 7:30 p.m. ET

  • Hawks at Raptors, 7:30 p.m. ET

  • Bucks at Bulls, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN)


WESTERN CONFERENCE

Entering Monday, here’s how the play-in standings look in the West:

5. Denver Nuggets: 47-32, 2 games ahead of 7th
6. Utah Jazz: 46-32, 1.5 GA

7. Minnesota Timberwolves: 45-34, 6 games ahead of 8th
8. LA Clippers: 39-40, 4.5 games ahead of 9th
9. New Orleans Pelicans: 34-44, 3 games ahead of 11th
10. San Antonio Spurs: 33-45, 2 games ahead of 11th

11. Los Angeles Lakers: 31-47, 2 GB

The four teams below the Los Angeles Lakers in the standings (Sacramento, Portland, Oklahoma City, Houston) have been eliminated from play-in contention. The Timberwolves can finish no worse than seventh, while the Clippers are locked into the eighth seed. The Spurs hold the tiebreaker over the Lakers, meaning Los Angeles must finish ahead of San Antonio to make the play-in tournament.

Here’s how the play-in games would look if the season ended today:

Here are the games Tuesday with the potential to impact the play-in standings:

  • Wizards at Timberwolves, 8 p.m. ET

  • Spurs at Nuggets, 9 p.m. ET

  • Grizzlies at Jazz, 9 p.m. ET

  • Pelicans at Kings, 10 p.m. ET

  • Lakers at Suns, 10:30 p.m. ET

MORE: Full NBA schedule


How does the NBA play-in tournament work?

There will be six total games involving eight teams as part of the play-in tournament, split up between the two conferences.

The teams that finish Nos. 1-6 in each conference will be guaranteed playoff spots, while team Nos. 7-10 in the standings will enter the play-in. Any team that finishes worse than No. 10 will be in the lottery.

Here’s how the games will work:

Game 1: The No. 7 team in the standings by winning percentage will host the No. 8 team, with the winner earning the No. 7 seed in the playoffs. The losing team gets another chance in Game 3.

Game 2: The No. 9 team will host the No. 10 team, with the winner moving on to Game 3. The loser is eliminated and enters the NBA draft lottery.

Game 3: The loser of the No. 7 vs. No. 8 matchup will host the winner of the No. 9 vs. No. 10 matchup, with the victor grabbing the No. 8 seed in the postseason. The loser of Game 3 also enters the lottery.

This means that the teams with the seventh-highest and eighth-highest winning percentages will have two opportunities to win one game to earn a playoff spot, while the teams with the ninth-highest and 10th-highest winning percentages need to win two straight games to advance.


What’s next after the play-in?

Once the play-in winners, seeded No. 7 and No. 8 from each conference advance, the 2022 NBA playoffs will begin on April 16. Game 1 of the NBA Finals is June 2.



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