In July 2022, the NBA Board of Governors approved the official institution of the NBA Play-In Tournament in the same format as the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 NBA seasons. The tournament is a precursor to the playoffs to determine the final two seeds to earn a bid into the NBA Playoffs. This year, the 2023 NBA Play-In Tournament will take place April 11-14 and feature matchups between the 7th through 10th seeds from each conference. The winners of these matchups will be the subsequent 7th and 8th seeds for the NBA Playoffs. It sounds simple enough, but can be confusing for a fan just learning about the new playoff format and schedule. So, how does the NBA Play-In Tournament work?
Here’s everything regarding the 2023 NBA Play-In Tournament explained, from the format to the specific schedule of this year’s tournament.
*Schedule via ESPN
The 2023 NBA Play-In Tournament will consist of six total games involving eight teams. These eight teams will be the 7-10 seeds from the Western and Eastern Conference.
Teams that finish 1-6 in each conference will be able to take the dates of April 11-14 off and watch who claims the final two seeds on each side of the playoff bracket. Teams finishing below the 10th seed will be entered into the draft lottery, hoping for a chance at an all-time prospect in Victor Wembanyama. For the 7-10 seeds, the schedule for the play-in tournament is as follows.
Game 1: The 7th seed will host the 8th seed, and the winner will automatically become the 7th seed in their conference for the NBA Playoffs. Whoever loses will still have a chance at the 8th seed, awaiting the winner of game 2.
Game 2: The 9th seed will host the 10th seed, and the winner will face the loser of game 1. Whoever loses game 2 joins the rest of the eliminated teams awaiting the lottery.
Game 3: Whoever lost game 1 (7 vs. 8) will now host whoever won game 2 (9 vs. 10), and the winner of this game now becomes the 8th seed in their conference for the NBA Playoffs. The loser tags along with the loser of game 2 into the lottery.
The way the NBA Play-In Tournament is set up, the 7th and 8th highest winning percentages have two opportunities to claim a playoff spot. The 9th and 10th highest winning percentages have to win two straight games if they want to advance.
This is the overall format of the tournament, but doesn’t explain how the tournament will shake out this season. Here is how the 2023 NBA Play-In Tournament is projected to play out as of Thursday, March 30th.
In the Eastern Conference, the current matchups would be as follows.
Game 1: No. 8 Atlanta Hawks at No. 7 Miami Heat.
Game 2: No. 10 Chicago Bulls at No. 9 Toronto Raptors.
Game 3: Loser of game 1 vs. winner of game 2.
Here are the matchups for the Western Conference.
Game 1: No. 8 Los Angeles Lakers at No. 7 Minnesota Timberwolves.
Game 2: No. 10 Oklahoma City Thunder at No. 9 New Orleans Pelicans.
Game 3: Loser of game 1 vs. winner of game 2.
Through March 30th, these would be the matchups. However, both conferences are seeing the playoff races come down to the wire and these matchups are subject to change. Here are where the standings lie as of now.
6. Brooklyn Nets – 41-35
7. Miami Heat – 40-37
8. Atlanta Hawks – 38-38
9. Toronto Raptors – 38-38
10. Chicago Bulls – 36-40
11. Washington Wizards – 34-42 (2 games behind 10th)
12. Indiana Pacers – 33-44
4. Phoenix Suns – 41-35 (2.5 games ahead of 7th)
5. Los Angeles Clippers – 41-36
6. Golden State Warriors – 40-37
7. Minnesota Timberwolves – 39-38
8. Los Angeles Lakers – 38-38
9. New Orleans Pelicans – 38-38
10. Oklahoma City Thunder – 38-39
11. Dallas Mavericks – 37-40 (1 game behind 10th)
12. Utah Jazz – 36-40
Both conferences could easily see some movement in the standings over the last two weeks of the regular season, especially in the highly contested and congested Western Conference. Here are key regular season games coming up that could have a serious impact on the playoff picture.
Thursday, March 30th
Pelicans at Nuggets, 10 p.m. ET
Friday, March 31st
Bulls at Hornets, 7 p.m. ET
Thunder at Pacers, 7 p.m. ET
Raptors at 76ers, 7 p.m. ET
Magic at Wizards, 7 p.m. ET
Jazz at Celtics, 7:30 p.m. ET
Hawks at Nets, 7:30 p.m. ET
Clippers at Grizzlies, 8 p.m. ET
Lakers at Timberwolves, 8 p.m. ET
Spurs at Warriors, 10 p.m. ET
Nuggets at Suns, 10:30 p.m. ET
Saturday, April 1st
Mavericks at Warriors, 7:30 p.m. ET
Clippers at Pelicans, 8:30 p.m. ET
Over the next two weeks, we will see some playoff atmosphere basketball as teams vie for their chance at the 2023 NBA Playoffs and the 2023 NBA Play-In Tournament. The play-in tournament helps keep the game more competitive, as more teams have a chance at playing past the regular season.
For fans of the game, this creates a more compelling product, as less teams mail the season in early for a better chance at a higher draft pick. In this year’s case, the 2023 NBA Play-In Tournament is the most highly contested installment of the tournament yet.