Decoding the NBA playoffs: Teams, rounds, and seeding explained

The NBA playoffs, a captivating annual spectacle, showcase the evolution of professional basketball. Delving into the league's history since 1946, our guide navigates the complexities of the playoffs.

Mathew K
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NBA Playoffs guide 2024

NBA Playoffs Guide 2024 (Source: Twitter)

The National Basketball Association (NBA), a powerhouse in professional sports, takes its fans on an exhilarating journey through the highly anticipated NBA playoffs each season. Founded in 1946 with 30 teams spanning the United States and Canada, the NBA playoffs have evolved over the years, introducing innovations and changes to the traditional structure.

After the culmination of the regular season, featuring 82 games per team, the top-performing teams from each conference earn the coveted opportunity to vie for the championship in the playoffs. With the recent introduction of the NBA In-Season Tournament in the 2023–2024 season, the playoff landscape has become more intricate, impacting the seeding process.

In the playoffs, the competition intensifies as the 16 qualifying teams, eight from each conference (Eastern and Western), enter the fray. The seeding is determined by regular-season records, with the top six teams securing their positions based on their performance. The seventh and eighth seeds are decided through the play-in tournament, adding an extra layer of drama to the proceedings.

The NBA playoffs consist of four rounds:

  1. First Round
  2. Conference Semifinals
  3. Conference Finals
  4. NBA Finals

Within each conference, four matchups unfold in the first round, with teams aiming to secure four wins to advance. The format follows a 2-2-1-1-1 home/away sequence, with the higher-seeded teams enjoying a home-court advantage in Games 1, 2, 5, and 7. 

The matchups are as follows:

No. 1 vs. No. 8

No. 2 vs. No. 7

No. 3 vs. No. 6

No. 4 vs. No. 5

As teams progress, the best-of-seven format persists, ensuring the most resilient and skilled teams advance to the next round. Home-court advantage remains a crucial factor, with the higher-seeded teams hosting more games.

The conference semifinals narrow down the competition to just two teams from each conference, setting the stage for the conference finals. The winners of these intense matchups claim the conference title, earning the right to compete in the NBA Finals.

The ultimate showdown, the NBA Finals, features the best team from the Eastern Conference facing off against the top team from the Western Conference. With the same best-of-seven format and home-court advantage rules, the Finals culminate in the crowning of the NBA Champion, the team that achieves four wins first, hoisting the prestigious Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy.

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