How does the 2024 NBA play-in tournament work? Dates, matchups and rules explained

ESPN logo
Thursday, April 18, 2024 6:06PM

The NBA's play-in tournament is set to start this week, as eight teams will battle to secure the final four spots in the 2024 NBA playoffs.

Initially implemented during the 2020-21 NBA season, the play-in tournament expanded the NBA's postseason to 20 teams (10 from each conference). The top six teams from each conference automatically qualify for the playoffs, while the 7- through 10-seeds enter the play-in tournament for a chance to extend their seasons.

This season's play-in tournament race was tight, going down to the final day of the season, as teams jockeyed to get homecourt advantage in the play-in, or avoid it altogether.

In the East, the Indiana Pacers and Orlando Magic won on the season's final day to secure a top-six spot, sending the Philadelphia 76ers and Miami Heat to the play-in. The 76ers beat the Heat 105-104 in the first play-in game to claim the No. 7 seed and a matchup with the New York Knicks. That sets up a Friday clash between the Heat and theChicago Bulls, who eliminated the Atlanta Hawks, for the East's No. 8 seed.

In the West,LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakersbeat theNew Orleans Pelicans, 110-106, in the first play-in game to earn the No. 7 seed. They will face the Denver Nuggets in the first round. The Pelicans will play the Sacramento Kings, who beat the Golden State Warriors in the play-in, on Friday for the No. 8 seed.

Here's everything you need to know about the 2024 play-in tournament, including how it works, current standings and matchups.

MORE: Which teams are in the 2024 playoffs?

Eastern Conference

Western Conference

Sunday's regular season results

How does the NBA play-in tournament work?

There will be six total games involving eight teams as part of the play-in tournament, split up between the two conferences.

The teams that finish Nos. 1-6 in each conference will be guaranteed playoff spots, while team Nos. 7-10 in the standings will enter the play-in. Any team that finishes worse than No. 10 will be in the NBA draft lottery.

Here's how the games will work:

  • Game 1s: Each conference's No. 7 team in the standings will host the No. 8 team, with the winner earning the No. 7 seed in the playoffs. The losing teams get another chance in Friday's Game 3s.
  • Game 2s: Each conference's No. 9 team will host the No. 10 team, with the winner moving on to Game 3. The losers are eliminated and enter the NBA draft lottery.
  • Game 3s (Friday): The losers of the No. 7 vs. No. 8 matchups will host the winners of the No. 9 vs. No. 10 matchups, with the victors grabbing each conference's No. 8 seed in the postseason. The losers of Game 3 enter the NBA draft lottery.

Under the format, teams with the seventh- and eighth-highest winning percentages will have two opportunities to win one game to earn a playoff spot, while the teams with the ninth- and 10th-highest winning percentages need to win two straight games to advance.

Related Video