Sports News

NBA expands 2021 playoffs with play-in games

The 2020-21 NBA postseason will be expanded to include a play-in tournament in each conference, the league announced Tuesday.

The pandemic-shortened regular season, reduced to 72 games, will start Dec. 22, and the postseason will open begin May 18.

Ten teams in each conference will advance to the postseason, with teams seeded seventh through 10th participating in a play-in tournament to gain admission to the conference playoffs.

The COVID-19-truncated 2019-20 season necessitated a delayed start to the coming season, and the league continues to finalize details. The NBA Board of Governors noted in announcing the changes that the season would be established in two segments -- the first Dec. 22-March 4, followed by the All-Star break (March 5-10), with the second half of the season March 11-May 16.

Intriguing differences in the playoff structure hold that the teams with the seventh-best and eighth-best records in each conference will play one game, with the winner becoming the No. 7 seed in the playoffs.

At the same time, the teams with the ninth- and 10th-best records will play a game, with the winner of that contest then meeting the loser of the “seven-eight” game for the right to become the No. 8 seed in the playoffs.

So, the teams 7 and 8 would need only to win one game in two tries while teams 9 and 10 would have to win two in a row.

Moreover, the 72-game schedule (compared to the traditional 82-game season) will not be perfectly balanced. Pointedly, the league announced, “The Second Half schedule will include the remainder of each team’s 72 games not scheduled in the First Half as well as any games postponed during the First Half that can reasonably be added to the Second Half schedule.”

The schedule will include teams playing three games against each intraconference opponent and two games against each interconference opponent.

The playoffs are due to end by July 22, which is the day before the opening ceremonies of the rescheduled Olympic Games in Tokyo.

--Field Level Media