The NBA faces its final stretch with few things for sure and a lot of uncertainty in the fight for the playoffs. Right now, only ten teams are qualified for the title rounds: nine in the Eastern Conference (Philadephia, Milwaukee, Brooklyn, Atlanta, Miami, New York, Boston, Charlotte, Indiana) and ten in the West (Utah, Phoenix, Los Angeles Clippers, Denver, Dallas, Portland, Los Angeles Lakers, Golden State, Memphis, San Antonio). The rest, an unknown with less than five-six games to close an atypical regular season due to the coronavirus (only 72 games) and the two play-in rounds still to be played.
This is how the first round of the ‘playoffs’ would be
Utah Jazz (1) – Winner of two play-in rounds: 9th vs. 10th. The one that beats the loser of the play-in between 7th and 8th.
Denver Nuggets (4) – Dallas Mavericks (5)
Los Angeles Clippers (3) – Portland Trail Blazers (6)
Phoenix Suns (2) – Winner of the first round of the play-in between 7th and 8th.
Philadelphia 76ers (1) – Winner of two play-in rounds: 9th vs. 10th. The one that beats the loser of the play-in between 7th and 8th.
Atlanta Hawks (4) – Miami Heat (5)
Milwaukee Bucks (3) – New York Knicks (6)
Brooklyn Nets (2) – Winner of the first round of the play-in between 7th and 8th.
This is how the ‘play-in’ would be
Los Angeles Lakers (7) – Golden State Warriors (8)
Memphis Grizzlies (9) – San Antonio Spurs (10)
Boston Celtics (7) – Charlotte Hornets (8)
Indiana Pacers (9) – Washington Wizards (10)
What is the ‘play-in’?
Typically the top eight from each conference qualify for the NBA title playoffs. In that exceptional end of the 2019-20 season, the League introduced a novelty: if the ninth finished the seeding games four victories or less behind the eighth, both (eighth and ninth) would face each other to play the last ticket for the qualifying rounds. In the East it was not necessary last year, but this year it will have this preview, which does not depend on the difference between games. Only nine teams arrived in Florida (the top eight from each Conference and those who were six wins or less from the eighth on each side) and the ninth, the Wizards, only won one game in the bubble (1-7), the last and inconsequential against the Celtics. And they finished seven and a half games behind eighth, the Orlando Magic.
But in the West there was a battle and a play-in. The Pelicans and the Kings were eliminated first. And on the last day the San Antonio Spurs and Phoenix Suns (with Ricky Rubio) said goodbye. The Blazers finished eighth (35-39) with only a percentage difference over the Memphis Grizzlies (34-39). They are eighth and ninth, so they played the first play-in in NBA history.
The Blazers prevailed last year. In this, the NBA has decided to increase the teams from two to four and the format is as follows: there will be two different series to a match, first between the 7th and 8th and second between the 9th and 10th place in each Conference, regardless of the distance that separates them in the table.
The winner of the match between the 7th and 8th will obtain automatic qualification for the playoffs in their respective Conference. The loser of that match will be local to the winner of the 9th and 10th, and the winner of this new match will be the 8th classified for the playoffs in their respective Conference. Thus, the 7th or 8th classified would have to lose two games in a row to run out of playoff options and would only have to win one to seal their participation.
When is the ‘play-in’ played?
The play-in for the 2020-21 basketball course will be held between May 18 and 21.