As part of the play-in tournament, there will be six total games featuring eight teams divided between the two conferences. Those finishing 1-6 in each conference will be assured postseason positions, while teams finishing 7-10 in the standings will compete in a play-in round. The four winners will advance to the 2020 NBA Playoffs.
The first game of the play-in round is scheduled for Wednesday, May 6 at 8:00 p.m. ET on ESPN. The remaining three games will be played on Thursday, May 7 with a start time of 8:00 p.m. ET on TNT, ESPN and ABC respectively.
The winner of the play-in round will advance to the second round of the playoffs where they will face the team ranked seventh in the Eastern Conference or fifth in the Western Conference. The loser will have another chance to make the playoffs by competing in the 2019 NBA Development League Playoffs.
The 2021 NBA Playoffs are expected to begin on April 16 and conclude on June 9 with the championship match. The Los Angeles Lakers are the favorite to win the NBA title in 2021 as they're ranked No. 2 in both top markets estimates. The Boston Celtics are listed third after making the most improvements to their basketball operations staff this off-season.
The play-in tournament will be held after the conclusion of the 2020–21 regular season and before the start of the first round of the 2021 NBA playoffs. The teams that finish Nos. 1-6 in the standings of each conference will be guaranteed playoff spots. 7 and 8 teams will face off, with the winner earning the No. 7 seed while the loser gets the 8th spot.
The top 4 seeds will be placed into the new format of "Conference Semifinals" which will consist of two games per series with the winners advancing to the "Conference Finals". The last two spots in the playoffs will be determined by a single game called the "Play-In Game". The winner of this game will earn the final spot in the playoffs.
This new format was adopted in an effort to increase the excitement surrounding the end of the regular season. Previously, the last place team in each conference would go home early while the remaining teams fought it out for the last three spots in the playoffs. With the new system, all eight teams will be fighting for four spots, making for some intense closing weeks of the season.
There is no specific date set for when these games will be played, but they are expected to be held around April or May of 2021. The play-in game will be held on the same day as the Conference Semifinals so that there is no waiting period between the end of the regular season and the beginning of the postseason.
The NBA regular season is concluded, and eight teams will compete in the play-in round to earn the remaining two playoff spots in each conference. The four winners will advance to the playoffs, while the other four teams will be eliminated from contention.
Each play-in game will be played over one weekend in April, with the eight losers going into hibernation until the start of the next NBA campaign. The first two games will be held on Friday, April 20, and the last six games on Saturday, April 21. The top two teams by record after these first 12 games will then meet in the Eastern Conference semifinal series, while the No. 3 vs. No. 4 match-up will determine which team advances to the final.
The schedule for the play-in rounds is listed below:
Friday, April 20 - 8 p.m. ET* Saturday, April 21 - 8 p.m. Sunday, April 22 - 2 p.m.
This year's play-in games will be broadcast live on ESPN/ABC.