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

ByESPN ESPN logo
Saturday, April 20, 2024 3:52PM

The NBA's play-in tournament has concluded with four teams emerging from the eight-team field to secure spots for the 2024 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 No. 2New York Knicks. The Heat then knocked out theChicago Bulls(who had previously eliminated the Atlanta Hawks, 131-116) to claim the East's No. 8 seed with a 112-91 win. Miami will next face off the East's top seed Boston Celtics.

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 No. 2 seedDenver Nuggets in the first round. The Pelicans then defeatedSacramento Kings(who had previously beat the Golden State Warriors, 118-94), for the No. 8 seed. That gives the Pelicans a first-round matchup with the West's top seedOklahoma City Thunder.

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 play-in tournament results

Western Conferenceplay-in tournament results

Sunday's key regular season finale 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.

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