NBA Playoffs 101

In the NBA there are a total of 30 teams and only 16 get to go to playoffs each year. There will be 8 teams in the Western Conference and 8 teams in the Eastern Conference that will battle it out for a chance to win the Championship. Playoffs start after the regular season is over, normally around the middle of April.

The first thing you need to understand is how the standings work. Please refer back to my previous blog: NBA Standings 101.

When the regular season is over, each team’s record is compared to the other teams in the same conference. It does not matter the records of the teams in the other conference, so the Western Conference teams are not compared to the Eastern Conference teams or vice versa. Also it is important to know the team with the best record in each division.

In each conference a team’s final record and their ranking in their division compared to the other teams records and rankings will determine the team’s seed. A seed is a team’s position in the playoffs being number 1-8 in each conference.

Each conference has 3 divisions. The teams that finish first in their division will be no lower than the 4th seed. The team that finished the regular season with the best overall record of their conference will take the number 1 seed. The other 2 division winners in that conference will be placed in the 2, 3, or 4 seed. The other teams in each conference will be ranked according to their win loss record. Only 8 teams in each conference go to the playoffs, so there are 7 teams in each conference that do not get to go. Once the teams have been placed in their seed the playoffs will being. Each conference will play the teams in the same conference till there is only one left to play the other conference’s winner.

In the playoffs there will be a total of 3 series. Each matchup in all three series will play 7 games. The best of 7 wins, so the team that wins 4 games moves on to the next round. If a team wins 4 games before all 7 are played that series will be over early and the team will wait for the other matchups to finish. Also the team with the least amount of losses, compared to who they are matched up with, will have home court advantage. This means they will get 4 of the 7 games played on their home court, 3 will be on the other team’s home court.There are two ways the leauge will have the the series lay these 7 games. One way is 2-3-2: the matchup will start with 2 games on the home team’s court, then 3 at the other team’s court, and back to the home team’s court for 2 more games if all 7 games are needed. The other way is 2-2-1-1-1: the match up will start with 2 games on the home team’s court, then 2 games at the other team’s court, back for 1 on the home team’s court, then 1 on the other team’s court, and then 1 on the home team’s court to finish.

The 1st series is called Round 1. In round 1 the 1st seed will play the 8th seed, 2 seed plays the 7 seed, 3 seed plays the 6 seed, and the 4 seed plays the 5 seed. (8–1, 2-7, 3-6, 4-5). The team that gets best of 7 (wins 4 games) will advance to the next series called Round 2, or Conference Semifinals.  In this round there are 2 matchups in each conference. The winner of the 8 and 1 matchup will play the winner of the 4 and 5 matchup, and the winner of the 3 and 6 matchup will play the winner of the 2 and 7 matchup. After these 2 matchups are over only 2 teams will remain in each conference and will move on to play each other in the 3rd round called the Conference Finals. The first team to win 4 games out of 7 in this matchup will be the winners of their conference and will advance to the Finals, the last series, to play the other Conference Finals winner. The team that wins best of 7 games will have won the playoffs and be the new NBA Champions.

Here is a look at how last summers playoffs went:

The NBA Champs receive the Larry O’Brien Trophy, and one player will be awarded Finals MVP (most valuable player).


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